tct 9: coffee scene – scott tedder of mrs atha’sBack
Any coffee shop wants to serve its customers, and meet their needs, and Mrs Atha’s is no exception. It does face some extra complications, though, when the customer in question also has her name above the door.
“Mrs Atha is Jonathan and Warren, the owners, grandma,” said Scott Tedder, the head barista. “She does grace us with her presence every so often. She is proud of it, and she always asks for her extra hot cappuccinos. That usually is an issue but, for her, we will always accommodate her as best we can.”
The city’s long-serving councillor, and extra in Kes (among many others), Bernard Atha, is no relation, though. “We do get asked that,” said Jonathan. “We’re the fairground Athas, our uncle still does that and that’s part of our heritage, so that went into the name as well. And it’s a Leeds name, so that was quite important, and it’s obviously family – we’re a family business. It sounds inviting and quite old fashioned, and we wanted this to be a place where people could spend plenty of time and get looked after.”
Of all the coffee houses in Leeds, Mrs Atha’s comes closest to a house, and is somewhere you could easily make your home for the day. Tiny china sugar bowls rest next to vases of flowers, on tables that are never far from plug sockets if you need to work. “We wanted a bit more space that people could settle down in or do a bit of work,” said Scott. “We were all people who would work online and like to sit in coffee shops and do stuff.”
The floor space also means wall space, filled regularly with exhibitions, which in turn fills the floor again at the accompanying events. “I think everyone that works here has got a creative side, and it gives everyone a space to be able to express themselves,” said Scott. “We’ve had photo exhibitions by one of the guys that works here, and we’ve just got our new Ben Horton exhibition up. It’s a space where we can all do something that we’re interested in as well as coffee.”
The coffee is at the centre, though. “We use Has Bean roastery to supply our house espresso, and we have our own signature blend which we try changing seasonally,” said Scott. “We have a guest coffee and two brewed coffees, and a bulk brewer that we have instead of americanos, so we can offer a much better quality black quality.
“If you’d said to me, before I worked in coffee, that for instance an Ethiopian coffee could have a fruity, blueberry note, I’d have just thought, ‘But it’s going to taste like coffee.’ But then when you try these coffees you can smell and taste those blueberry notes, and I just think the interest in that is incredible.
“I’ve been working in coffee for about three or four years and always learn new things; the industry itself is just pushing forwards. And I think everyone in Leeds is trying to do something a bit different, and trying to move forwards with it. It’s good to see.”
Originally published in The City Talking Leeds: Issue 09