Life Video

Chris Jaffray

 

A tea-mad eight-year-old with autism can already make more 60 different luxury blends – and now wants to open a tea bar staffed by people with disabilities.

Schoolboy Austen Usher has cultivated such an interest in tea over the last two years he can now create a unique blend designed to fit the mood and character of the drinker.

He has been on three tea blending workshops and makes his custom blends at home in Hazel Grove, Stockport, with dad Simon, 33, and mum Lynne 30, brother Tristen nine, who also has autism, and sister Aria, five.

Austen recently decided he wants to open an upmarket tea bar in the nearby town of Wilmslow, within Cheshire’s prestigious ‘Golden Triangle’ and already has an empty space on the high street lined up.

He hopes to raise £60,000 via crowdfunding to launch the café, which would employ people with autism and other disabilities after the youngster discovered only 16 per cent of people with special needs are in a job.

Austen said: “I love tea, it started when I was three and my mum was drinking a liquid and I didn’t know what it was.

“I said ‘can I try it? and she said ‘you might not like it’ but I did.

“I always wanted to set up a business, and when I was seven I just wanted to sell tea.

“We want to employ people with autism and down’s syndrome and other learning difficulties.

“84 per cent of them don’t get jobs and we want to prove people wrong and show they are good enough.”

Austen now makes 60 different blends of tea – sourcing the leaves himself before adding herbs, spices or fruit.

Some of his most unusual blends are cranberry and orange and also ceylon, assam and darjeeling.

During a recent conversation with dad Simon, a technical services engineer who also has autism, Austen asked why people with his condition struggle to find work.

Simon explained people with autism can find interviews difficult as they can’t be the best version of themselves.

But Austen branded this view “stupid” and saying he would “employ them all himself.”

He and dad-of-three Simon already have a spot lined up in Wilmslow for their new business after spotting current empty premises.

They are looking to source £60,000 from crowdfunding and a further £95,000 from National Lottery grants and another £95,000 from Kickstarter.

They estimate the business will spend £35,000 on rent, £20,000 to £30,000 on architectural design and £30,000 on training courses but need other funds to buy equipment and pay tea suppliers.

Should the plan come to fruition, Simon plans to quit his job and manage the business while Austen, who is currently in year three, will mix is role as autistic tea legend around his studies.

The pair also plan to sell alcoholic tea cocktails from the premises in the evening

Employees, provided by Pure Innovation which specialises in helping disabled people into work, will  be trained in tea blends and other skills such as money management.

Simon said: “Austen has two passions, tea and helping people.

“He’s a dab hand at creating custom blends and he can even make an individual tea to match the person he is making it for, I have no idea how he does it.

“Austen said the idea that people with autism struggle to find work was stupid, he wanted to give them all a job.

“So we want to make a tea bar where people with all disabilities can show the worth to society that they already have.

“It would be a fully inclusive place that removes all the barriers and destigmatises those with disabilities, allowing them to prove themselves.

“We want to bring in professionals to help them get any training they need and we also want any facilities for people with disabilities to be invisible, so it’s  a comfortable place for them.

“I can’t believe my eight-year-old could be so thoughtful, but his desire to do this is absolute.”

So far the family have raised £510 of their £60,000 target but hope to reach the full figure by April this year.

Simon added: “Austen is a fun, sweet young man, with a dream to start a non-profit tea business.

“In doing so, we’d be able to change the lives of people living with cognitive disabilities.

“The public’s donations would make an eight-year-old’s dream come true.”

The effort can be supported by visiting: https://www.gofundme.com/f/austenteaco