Introduce yourself (name and your role)
I am Ellen-Moana Smith and I am the Manager and Head Barista at Neil Café.
Tell us a little bit about yourself + your background
Outside of hospitality I am a performing artist. I’ve worked in hospo since I was 13 – an old school hospo gal!
What can someone visiting this space expect to experience?
Good vibes, great coffee, delicious food, and something a little bit different. I don’t think we’re a normal café. It’s kind of like going over to your best friend’s house for lunch rather than going out to a proper café.
What do you like most about being the head barista at Neil?
I’ve got the best customers. I get to spend a lot of time talking to people because my machine is right there, and you get all these friends come in. So yeah, probably the community.
If there was one thing you want Neil to be known for, what would it be?
Our vibe. It’s so nice to work in a place where we offer a welcoming space that anyone can walk into and feel comfortable. It’s not threatening at all, we make mistakes and we’re honest about it. So, if there was one thing I’d want people to remember, it’s that this is such a nice community spot.
We really hep out the locals too. When we had flooding earlier in the year, we were out on the street pulling people out of cars and offering free coffees to the people on the street.
Why do you choose The Alternative?
It’s because it’s the best non-dairy milk. It’s consistent, you can always rely on it to be good and do latte art with. Being a barista for so long, I think there was a phase when we were all using Soy milk and we got used to coffees not looking pretty but now there are oat milk latte art competitions and things like that, so it’s good to have a milk that steams really well and tastes really good. The consistency is amazing.
If you could have a coffee with any person in history, who would it be and why?
My Nanny. She passed away just as I went into my adult years. I used to get up and make her coffee. So now making people coffee has that nostalgic feeling for me of making coffee for my Nan when I was a kid. She’d ask for milk with no sugar because she’s already sweet enough!