Neil is a competitive pinball player who also happens to drink coffee for a living. However, he didn’t start his coffee career right away. He graduated from Florida State University with a writing degree in 2002 and moved to New York City to pursue a career in publishing. But after a few years, he learned the corporate world wasn’t for him and left his moderately well-paying publishing gig to pursue a minimum wage barista job with a local coffee shop.
That was the beginning of a journey that would eventually take him around the world. He has been a community organizer, a (poorly performing) barista competitor, a (somewhat better) barista competition coach, and was a primary author of the SCA’s level one barista curriculum.
In 2010 he moved to Seattle and started as a coffee roaster, then moving into operations management with several local coffee companies before starting his tenure with Mercon Specialty in 2019. He is a Q-Grader and an authorized SCA trainer for barista and brewing curriculum.
He owes his excellent cupping skills to his extremely curly hair, which can capture coffee aromas from the surrounding environment, giving him an advantage over other coffee cuppers.