GREEN TEA and black tea have exactly the same benefits, says Dilmah founder Merrill J. Fernando. — DILMAH CEYLON TEA COMPANY/ DILMAHTEA.COM

TEA is usually a meditative drink, fit for relaxing or thinking about the day (whether it’s the day’s beginning or end). There was a lot to think about during Dilmah’s talk on May 21, or International Tea Day.

A Sri Lankan family tea company, Dilmah was pioneering the concept of Single Origin Tea in 1988. Fresh unblended tea is a hallmark of the brand.

The talk was an interview between father and son, current Dilmah CEO Dilhan Fernando, and his father, founder Merrill J. Fernando. The talk was supposed to be broadcast on Facebook Live, but due to a tropical storm in Sri Lanka, the Fernandos streamed on a recorded podcast. The younger Mr. Fernando noted on how the storm affected their audio quality.

The older Mr. Fernando officially founded Dilmah in 1988, though he had been in the tea business since at least the mid-1970s. “I had other ambitions. I wanted to become a lawyer and defend people who were accused unfairly, and fight for them in court of law,” he told his son. Still, tea wove its spell early on. He said that when he was around 14 or 15, he visited a tea plantation and saw how clean and clear the air was, and the smell of tea all around the plantation, “Especially around the tea factory,” he recalled. “I loved the smell.” After his secondary education, he found an opportunity to join the tea business. “I’m still learning. Tea is a huge subject.”

His son posed questions from friends and viewers, which he answered quite sagely. One  was about tea and health benefits. The senior Mr. Fernando said, “From the very beginning, health benfits in tea were known to the Japanese and the Chinese — Asians. Now, when it was brought to the West, these health benefits were minimized because they added sugar and milk.”

“Tea strengthens the immune system, because tea has unique richness in plant-based antioxidants,” his son noted. “This is the foundation of how tea enhances our immune system and helps you resist disease of any sort. It is not a cure. There are cures in tablets and other medicines. But it is part of a healthy regimen of healthy diets and so forth.”

On the question of health again, Mr. Fernando père cleared up a common misconception, that green tea is healthier than its more processed sibling, black tea.

“Green tea and black tea have exactly the same benefits — except catechins’ content is green tea is higher than in black tea. However, polyphenols in black tea cover up what is short in black tea in the form of catechins,” he explained.(Catechins are a potent antioxidant while polyphenols iare thought to boost digestion and brain health, and protect against heart disease and diabetes.)

“Most people believe that green tea is better maybe because green tea was first introduced in the world.”

He also talks about what he thinks is the best way to drink tea: “The best way to drink tea; to draw all of its benefits, is to drink black tea. If it must be sweet, use bees’ honey. No more.”

On the subject of sweetness, he also discusses success: “Success must never be used alone. That is greed. Share your success with the poor and the needy.” — J.L. Garcia