Head Judges

  • Paul Songer, USA
    Paul Songer, USA Head Judge, Quality Control

    Paul Songer has been in the specialty coffee business for over 30 years, beginning his career at Allegro Coffee Company, a medium-sized wholesale specialty roaster in Boulder, Colorado, as a repairer and installer of espresso machines and other coffee machinery. He gradually moved from equipment to cupping and training, writing technical manuals and conducting training with sales staff, customers, and internal sensory panels as manager of training and research. During this period, he was also a partner in a Boulder coffee house, a business that has been in continuous operation since 1996. In 1998, Songer took the position of Director of Coffee Operations at Coffee Analysts, an independent lab specializing in the sensory, chemical, and physical analysis of coffee. This led to further independent research and a certificate of sensory analysis at the University of California at Davis. During this period he was a judge for one of the initial barista competitions held at the Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA) convention in 1998. He served for over 10 years on the Technical Standards Committee of the SCAA and has given several technical presentations at their conferences. He has had numerous articles on coffee published and is the co-author of the SCAA Water Quality Manual, which deals with the chemistry of water and its effect on brewing coffee. He has also authored or co-authored chapters in the books, Specialty Coffee: Managing Quality and The Craft and Science of Coffee. He began in COE as a participant cupper in 2000 and has served as head judge for over 35 competitions. He currently works as an independent consultant specializing in application of sensory analysis techniques to the coffee business, product development, sensory panel training, quality control, and roasting. Offered seminars include cupper training, roasting, and brewing.

  • Silvio Leite, Brazil
    Silvio Leite, Brazil Head Judge, Quality Control

    A specialist in coffee grading, tasting and quality control, Silvio Leite has more than 30 years of experience in the coffee business.

    During the twelve years in which he worked for the Bozzo group, Silvio Leite dedicated himself to coffee grading and tasting. He developed and implanted coffee controls in the firm and was responsible for the quality control of all branches of the Bozzo group, based in Geneva, Switzerland.

    During his fourteen years with Agribahia, a company of the Espírito Santo group, Silvio came to prominence as a specialist in coffee processing and quality control at all stages of post-harvest processing. He was Commercial and Industrial Manager, and as a Director took an active part in the administration of the group’s two farms.

    An expert coffee taster, Silvio Leite is a cupper certified by the Brazil Specialty Coffee Association (BSCA) and has participated as a judge in many coffee quality contests, both in Brazil and abroad. He is the president of the international jury of the Cup of Excellence quality contest, one of the most prestigious in the world coffee market, which recognizes the best coffees produced in each country.

    Silvio is a reference in the Brazilian coffee scene, especially in the state of Bahia, where he holds the posts of President of the Bahia Coffee Trade Center and of the Association of Coffee Producers of Bahia.

    Silvio Leite is a founding partner of AgriCoffee and AgriCafé.

  • Eduardo Ambrocio, Guatemala
    Eduardo Ambrocio, Guatemala Head Judge, Quality Control

    He studied Business Administration, getting into the coffee industry on 1991. In 1993, he began to cooperate with the Guatemalan National Coffee Association (Anacafé) working for the Small Producers Quality Assurance program funded by USAID. Since 1998, he was Anacafé’s master cupper until 2012. He also has the Guatemalan Coffees Expertise Cupper degree awarded by this Association. In 2014 he founded a family company focused on Quality Assurance, Finest Coffee Identification, and Trading. Ambrocio was recognized as Star Cupper by the Central America and Dominican Republic Quality Coffee Program (CADR-QCP) and given the Q Grader degree by the Coffee Quality Institute in 2005, at the beginning of the program, joining the Q Instructor and QI Reviewer teams in 2014 for Quality Coffee Institute. He has participated actively in the prestigious program Cup of Excellence since the beginning of the programa in Guatemala in 2001, being responsible for the technical coordination in Anacafe Guatemala in the first years of the program. Afterwards, He became part of the Head Judge and Trainer teams, evaluating the cuppers and running the competitions in most of the countries where the programs is run.

  • John Thompson, UK
    John Thompson, UK Head Judge, Quality Control

    John is the founder of Coffee Nexus, an Edinburgh based consultancy focusing on quality improvement, value addition and sustainability in the supply chain. His background is in sourcing and supply chain management, and he works with a range of clients across the globe primarily on sourcing, sensory and roasting related projects. John is a long-term advocate of the Cup of Excellence and long-term advocate of the programme’s pioneering approach to supporting coffee quality and producer recognition, since his first juror experience in Guatemala 2002.He’s has been part of the Head Judge team since 2012. He currently sits on the SCA Education Advisory Council, previously SCAE’s Education Committee, working on curriculum and content development for their Coffee Skills Programme.

  • Scott Conary, USA
    Scott Conary, USA Head Judge, Quality Control

    As Owner of award-winning Cafe’s in Chapel Hill, NC (USA), along with his wholesale roastery, Carrboro Coffee Roasters; Scott has had many opportunities to travel, teach and learn about coffee production, process, selection, roasting, retail and quality trends for the last 20+ years. He is an active educator in the industry in most all disciplines, and consults for cafes and businesses nationally and around the world for technical skill, knowledge, and competition. He serves as a World Coffee Events Representative and Certified Head Judge for the World Coffee Championships for the last 15 years, and is also an instructor for the WCE Judge Certification program.  Scott sits on multiple WCE and SCA Committees and has been active as a member of the CQI Coffee Corp. He has been involved in the Cup of Excellence Program since 2007 and a Head Judge for the last 5 years.

  • Rony Gamez, Honduras
    Rony Gamez, Honduras Head Judge, Quality Control

    Rony Studied coffee cultivation management as a career and graduated in Instituto 21 de Octubre, and have a Q Graders License extended by the Coffee Quality Institute of America (CQI). He has 16 years of cupping experience and has done the technical coordination for Honduras in all 12 Cup of Excellence events to date. Rony constantly participates in international coffee events such as SCAA, SCAE, SCAJ, Cafe Show, MICE, Tea, Coffee and Wine Show and helped in Bolivia’s, Mexico’s and Costa Rica’s COE Events in Pre-selection, Judges Evaluation and Training, National and International Week Coordination and he is among the head judges in Cup of Excellence.

  • John Moore, USA
    John Moore, USA Head Judge, Quality Control

    John began his career in coffee in 1993, roasting a few thousand pounds per week and working as a barista in a small, independent café roaster just outside of Manhattan. Since then he’s been a coffee bar manager, regional retail manager, director of training, director of coffee, a CEO of two coffee companies and partner in another, a green coffee trader, and has managed a vertically integrated international coffee company with two coffee farms in Brazil, two mills in Brazil, plus roasting and retail operations New York City. John is a Certified Q Grader and Head Judge of the Cup of Excellence program.  Today, John is extremely excited to be CEO of Vassilaros & Sons Coffee where he spends his days connecting New Yorkers with delicious coffees from around the globe.

  • Alex Pond
    Alex Pond Head Judge & Sr. Education Manager

    Alex started in coffee in 2005, working as a barista in his hometown of Eugene, Oregon. In 2009 he competed in and won the Northwest Regional Barista Competition. Alex has worked guest barista shifts in Iceland and Sweden and has volunteered for numerous national and international coffee events, including the Nordic Barista Cup, as a USBC Judge. In 2012 Alex joined the team at Portland’s Heart Coffee Roasters. Over nearly six years at Heart, Alex directed their training programs, managed quality control, and worked as part of the green buying team.

    Alex enjoys travel, Oregon’s incredible natural beauty, and Cats. He is also a pretty good cook.

  • Erwin Mierisch
    Erwin Mierisch Executive Director

    Erwin J. Mierisch is a 4th generation coffee producer. His family began coffee farming over a hundred years ago when his great grandfather emigrated to Nicaragua to design the railroad. Part of his payment was in land and was fascinated by the mountains of Matagalpa where he recognized the potential to grow coffee.

    Coffee has been part of his life from early childhood but studies took him into petroleum engineering which he didn’t pursue for too long. Erwin dove fully into coffee in 1994 becoming his true passion. Erwin has worked on the entire spectrum of the coffee supply chain since then. From producing, processing, cupping, roasting, exporting, and importing. He has been instrumental in the implementation of specialty quality standards in his own families’ farms, which have come to earn several spots as Cup of Excellence winners in two different countries and has been an active advocate for the value of specialty coffee in several countries including his own. Trained as a processing specialist he has had the chance to share his knowledge with producers across the globe.

    Erwin’s rich history with Cup of Excellence began in 2002 with onboarding the first Nicaragua Cup of Excellence and served as an in-country coordinator. Since then, he has been its operations manager, a skilled head judge, a trainer, and a winning Cup of Excellence® farmer.  He was also involved and helped coordinate the Los Favoritos Private Collection Auction.

  • Stephen Vick

    Stephen Vick was born in Portland, OR and attended the University of Washington where he graduated with a degree in Human Centered Design and Engineering. He began his coffee career in 2000 as a barista at Zoka Coffee where he competed in the United States Barista Championship and became a World Barista Championship Judge. After working for a few years as a barista trainer and moving back to Portland in 2005 to work for Stumptown Coffee, he had the opportunity to participate as an International Jury member for the Cup of Excellence (COE) in 2006, and also works today as a Head Judge for COE. He left Portland in 2008, and moved to East Africa to work on a project in Western Tanzania with Sustainable Harvest coffee importers. After this project, he continued his work in East Africa as a field agent for Intelligentsia Coffee, as well as working for a year in their Chicago Roasting Works. In 2012, he ventured back out west, becoming the Green Coffee Buyer for Blue Bottle Coffee. His love for East African pulled him back to that side of the world in 2016, where he helped open African Coffee Roasters, which roasts and packages 1500 tons of coffee annually for export to the European market.

  • Eleane Mierisch, Nicaragua
    Eleane Mierisch, Nicaragua In Memory

    Started her career as a Women’s Health Care Nurse Practitioner and in coffee more than 10 years ago but you would never know it. She is now a battle-hardened, passionate coffee lover. She manages the dry mill and quality control at Fincas Mierisch and brings order and style to a historically chaotic place. In her first year, she attained a spot in the national jury for the Nicaraguan Cup of Excellence and made leaps and bounds in quality control for the dry mill. Having no prior experience in coffee has been a blessing in disguise. With no bad habits of a commodified world, she has taken the goal of complete lot separation head on.

    Eleane was a devoted supporter of Cup of Excellence and has been involved in its mission since the beginning. Her passion was contagious. She is missed by all in the coffee world. We honor her memory.

  • Luis Rodríguez
    Luis Rodríguez COE Head Judge

    Holding an Economics and Business Administration degree, his coffee life started as Head of Economics Department for the Salvadoran Coffee Council back in 2001. The coffee bug bit him while overseeing several quality and marketing programs. In 2003, he co-coordinated the first CoE program in El Salvador and kept involved until 2009, when he became a coffee grower and started a consulting firm focused on marketing, quality control and fostering relationships between growers and buyers.

    He’s been related to Cup of Excellence not only as organizer but as national and international judge, winning CoE grower and now as Head Judge for ACE/CoE since 2021. Luis holds active Q Grader license, Q Processing Professional certificate as well as having a Lecturer certificate for teaching Quality Evaluation and Post Harvesting Processing courses for CQI. He founded the Salvadoran Coffee School and currently acts as president for the Salvadoran Coffee Cuppers Association (ASCAFE).

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