Big Brains

Aisha Tedros of A.T. Oasis Coffee and Tea Shop: 2014 Big Brain Awards Finalist, Culinary Arts (VIDEO)

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See also: "Urban Legend" Awards Announced in Honor of New Times' Fifth Big Brain Awards

Video by Evie Carpenter.

Tedros moved the United States 12 years ago from Keren, the second largest city in Eritrea, a small eastern African country that's just north of Ethiopia. Back then, she spoke no English and could neither read nor write. Like so many others, she came in search of the American Dream, having grown up being told that in America anyone can be anything they want.

Tedros taught herself to speak English, and these days you can hardly get her to stop. The coffee shop owner switches back and forth with ease between English and the six African languages she also speaks. Tedros says her innate chattiness always set her apart from other Eritrean women. It's part of the reason she says America immediately felt like home.

"When I got here, I called my mom and said, 'Everyone here is like me!,'" she says with a laugh.

Before opening A.T. Oasis Coffee and Tea Shop in Phoenix with her husband Abdul, Tedros spent years working as a server at Mimi's Cafe at Mesa's Fiesta Mall. A framed letter from the restaurant's manager sits on a shelf inside the shop. It thanks Tedros for her years of service and commends her for exceptional customer service.

It's still one of her strongest assets as a small business owner.

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Lauren Saria
Contact: Lauren Saria