Rising Star Artisan James Tooill of Argo Sons Coffee - Biography

Louisville, KY

January 2014

To accrue the kind of coffee accomplishments James Tooill has under his belt, it’s safe to assume you’d need lots of caffeine. Lucky for Tooill, he starting drinking coffee early on—in middle school to be exact. He still uses the French press he got for Christmas at 14. A Louisville local, Tooill attended the University of Kentucky in nearby Lexington, where he earned a degree in philosophy. And though his heart was in coffee (he applied unsuccessfully to jobs at coffee shops), he worked every other position in the industry while attending school: waiter, expediter, cook, dishwasher, and cashier.

Eventually, though, Tooill found a way to follow his true calling, and he followed it all the way to Counter Culture in Asheville, North Carolina, where Tooill paid his own tuition through the Espresso and Milk Labs to become a Counter Culture-certified barista. Tooill wasn’t just interested in creating the perfect latte, or perfecting his latte art (though he did proceed to the third round of the CoffeeFest Latte Art Competition in Chicago); he wanted to get to know coffee in every possible expression.

And he did just that, working as a barista at High Five Coffee Bar and serving as a barista trainer for Quills Coffee Co. At Dripolator Coffee House, Tooill launched the roasting program and eventually moved the café from using outside suppliers to exclusively house-roasted coffee. More than a few cups later, he became head Roaster at Argo Sons Coffee. There, Tooill continues to follow his passion, exploring the lands, flavors, and larger culture of coffee, and sharing it with his grateful hometown. In early 2014, representing Argo Sons, Tooill placed third in the Southeast Regional Brewer’s Cup; this spring, he will be the first-ever Kentucky roaster to compete the national Brewer’s Cup. He also won the 2014 StarChefs.com Kentucky-Tennessee Rising Stars Roaster Award.