Our Board

  • Noelia Villalobos

    Noelia Villalobos is the Executive Director of the Specialty Coffee Association of Costa Rica and of Sintercafé (International Coffee Week, initials in Spanish) since 2009. Both associations work hard to promote production and consumption of specialty Costa Rican coffee, in and out of Costa Rica. Sintercafé is an annual event recognized worldwide which incorporates both sides of the coffee value chain. SCACR has coordinated COE since its beginnings in Costa Rica, being also the in-country partner for CQI and the WCE counterparty. Noelia holds a Master’s degree in Promotional Marketing from the Universidad Complutense de Madrid.

  • Cory Bush
    Cory Bush Antwerp, Belgium - CEO of Beyers Koffie

    Cory Bush is the CEO of Beyers Koffie. His coffee career began in East Africa, where he was a regional manager for the TechnoServe coffee initiative, a program which sought to increase smallholder coffee incomes. He then worked as a Senior Trader with Falcon Coffees in the United Kingdom, where he built collaborative, quality-focused supply chains across Africa and Central America.  His latest position takes him to Europe where is the Managing Director of the specialty green coffee division of the Swiss trade house Sucafina, with clients across nearly every country in Europe, Russia, the Middle East, and North Africa.  He was one of the inaugural Q-grader classes that graduated in Rwanda back in 2010.  Cory previously served on the SCA Sustainability Council, and has been a speaker at the ICO, AFCA, and various other coffee-focused events.

  • Susie Spindler
    Susie Spindler Founder, USA - Advisory to the Board - EMERITUS

    Susie Spindler was instrumental in creating the Cup of Excellence (COE) competition and auction in 1999 and was the Founder and Executive Director of The Alliance for Coffee Excellence-the non-profit organization that owns Cup of Excellence. From its beginning Spindler managed, molded and expanded this renowned global program and directed ACE with a small staff until 2015. She was asked to return to its helm in 2016 and has once again stepped back as advisor and board treasurer. Spindler began her career in coffee more years ago than she will admit but at a time when soft drinks were more popular and coffee was barely identified by country and almost never by farm or variety. At that time she created several successful coffee programs for the International Coffee Organization that helped jump start specialty coffee in the USA. She has also been a founder and marketing director of an endangered wildlife facility, president of a small advertising agency and heavily involved in consumer product marketing research. She holds a graduate degree in international marketing and management.

  • Vanusia Nogueria Executive Director for International Coffee Organizatio , Brazil - EMERITUS

    Vanusia Nogueria has been the Executive Director of the Brazil Specialty Coffee Association (BSCA) since 2008. Now holds the position of Executive Director for International Coffee Organization. BSCA was influential in the first Cup of Excellence competition and has partnered with ACE from the beginning. Vanusia holds a number of advanced business degrees and was a consulting partner at Price Waterhouse Coopers for 15 years. She is also a supervisory board member for UTZ Certified, a nonprofit organization focusing on sustainable farming.

  • Diego De La Cerda
    Diego De La Cerda Guatemala - Board Member

    Since I graduated from college, Escuela de Agricultura de la Region Tropical Humeda, in 1998, I’ve been working on my family farms. In 2007 we decided to participate in COE. That year we were 1st place! That experience introduced me to a new specialty market and put me in touch with small specialty roasters. Since 2007 we have been participating in COE with our farms, and a lot of our clients come from COE.

    In all these years I have learned a lot about the COE program and I think I can bring a lot of ideas to support and improve the experience of COE. I understand all the coffee chain and I can help other producers to improve the quality of the coffee and teach them how they can take competitive advantage of the COE program.

  • Yunson Lee Terarosa Coffee, Republic of Korea - Board Member

    Yunson Lee is the CEO of Terarosa Coffee in South Korea. Over the last ten years, her devotion to excellence and transparency in green bean purchasing has resulted in her becoming one of the most knowledgeable and experienced buyers in the explosive South Korean market. Previously a journalist, Lee continues to write articles and books on coffee origins, preparations and theory. Her company, Terarosa has been dedicated to the Cup of Excellence cause for the last ten years; having bought 70 Cup of Excellence lots which they proudly serve in their 15 coffee shops.

  • Kentaro Maruyama Maruyama Coffee, Japan - Emeritus

    Kentaro Maruyama is president and founder of Maruyama Coffee, one of the foremost specialty coffee brands in Japan. In 2001, Kentaro organized Japanese buyers into the influential Japan Roaster’s Network (former Mikatajuku group), which has since been the successful bidder for many top Cup of Excellence lots. Kentaro has been an international jury member more than 50 times over the years. Kentaro is a former Chair of the ACE Board.

  • Hidetaka Hayashi Hayashi Coffee Institute, Japan - Hayashi Coffee Institute, Japan - Emeritus

    Hidetaka Hayashi is President and Founder of Hayashi Coffee Institute. He has also served as a consultant to a number of coffee entities for the last 25 years, including International Trade Centre programs. Hidetaka has been a Committee Member of SCAA International Relations Committee since 2002, and was a former President of SCAJ and a former ACE board member. He has participated in many COE competitions, including the original COE competition in Brazil.

  • Geoff Watts Quality Engineer at Azahar Coffee Company, USA - EMERITUS

    Geoff Watts is the Quality Engineer at Azahar Coffee Company. He has served as an official judge in over 30 international coffee competitions and was a pioneer of the Direct Trade approach to coffee sourcing, which uniquely suits him for his position with ACE. Mr. Watts is the past-chair of the ACE Board and a member of the Executive Committee.

  • Raphael Braune
    Raphael Braune COMANDANTE, Germany - Board Member

    I am one of the founders and Senior Vice President of COMANDANTE Grinder Technologies and of German specialty coffee pioneer SUPREMO COFFEE located in Munich, Germany as well as Finca Dona Elsa in Costa Rica.

    My original background is in marketing and graphic design.

    I have been working in Specialty Coffee since nearly two decades and been involved with ACE almost just as long. I have served on numerous COE juries since 2008 and this year our Lab served as GCC. I love coffee and truly do believe in the Cup Of Excellence program. I would be happy to support the board and help promote ACE & COE around the globe to get more people involved!

  • Aleco Chigounis
    Aleco Chigounis Red Fox, USA - Board Member

    Aleco is Co-Founder and President of Red Fox Coffee Merchants in Berkeley, CA USA & Red Fox Sourcing Company in Lima, Peru.  He began cupping in his late teens at his family’s roasting business, Lacas Coffee Company.  Immediately upon graduating university Aleco headed south to Costa Rica to work for The Coffee Source before joining The Neumann Kaffe Gruppe’s San Jose operation, CECA, managing the link between roasters and producers across Central America.  Aleco moved on to Portland to inherit the Director of Coffee role from Duane Sorenson.  Aleco has extensive experience developing coffee quality & supply chains which he continues to do today at the helm of Red Fox.  He has served on close to a dozen COE juries since his first jury in Bolivia 2008.

  • Bartosz Ciepaj
    Bartosz Ciepaj Harrods, United Kingdom - Board Member

    Bartosz Ciepaj is a coffee professional, the Master Roaster of Harrods, a Q Grader and International Judge for Cup of Excellence. He has worked on a diverse portfolio of coffee projects internationally, setting new trends in coffee. Bartosz international experience across different fields, including; international development and human rights, have driven his passion for improving sustainability within the coffee industry, especially in producing countries.

    Bartosz started his journey at Harrods by setting up the coffee roastery within the iconic Roast and Bake Hall. He is proud that many Cup of Excellence best lots are roasted in full view of the customers over the last five years, sold at the coffee counter, and served at the Harrods cafes.

    He aims to provide Harrods customers with the world’s finest products and coffee experience. Bartosz draws inspiration from advanced studies in wine, neurogastronomy and gastro-physics

  • Amir Gehl
    Amir Gehl Difference Coffee, United Kingdom - Board Member

    Amir Gehl is an entrepreneur and founder of Difference Coffee, London. Amir specialises in branding, communication and marketing and has been educated in some of the world’s finest business schools which include London Business School, Harvard, and Kellogg. His singular vision is to promote the world’s highest scoring coffees to the most affluent consumers and, as such, he has been a promoter of COE coffees ever since founding the company in 2016. As a result, these are now offered in over 50 Michelin restaurants and luxury hotels worldwide. In addition, his efforts to promote COE have led the brand to be featured in some of the world’s most prestigious news publications including Food & Wine Magazine, CNN and others. Amir is a devoted husband and father of two boys. In his free time, he enjoys gastronomic experiences, fine wine collecting, and musical performances.

    Amir believes strongly that COE would benefit from his marketing expertise and desire to promote initiatives which would help position the program as a consumer brand, driving customer demand.

  • Satoshi Ito
    Satoshi Ito Wataru & Co., Ltd., Japan - Board Member

    Satoshi Ito graduated from the University College of Cariboo in 2000 with a business degree. His career started with Wataru in 2000. He has developed relationships with specialty coffee exporters/producers over the world and contributed to the expansion of specialty coffee. He is a specialist of international trade. He has done logistics of Cup of Excellence coffee nearly 150 times (almost all competitions). He also serves as a committee member of sustainable coffee association of Japan.

    He has over 20 years of coffee business experience and has served on Cup of Excellence juries 2 times. He is 45 years old and the General Manager of the Import Department of Wataru & Co., Ltd.

  • Tim Taylor Pedestrian Coffee, USA - Treasurer

    In 2009 Tim Taylor founded Chicago’s Ipsento Coffee — a farm to table coffee roasting and retail operation. He has since sold the company and now remains in the coffee sector as an independent contractor. Tim has been working in specialty coffee since 2007 when he began importing coffee directly from producers. Tim’s vision has always involved sourcing exceptional coffees from quality-minded producers who receive sustainable pay premiums for their efforts. In 2011, Tim served on his first Cup of Excellence jury and has been committed to serving on juries and bidding on auction lots ever since.

  • Maryna Gray
    Maryna Gray Bean Box, United States - Board Member

    Maryna Gray is a founding partner and the Director of Coffee for Bean Box, a leading direct-to-consumer brand for Specialty Coffee experiences at home. Since 2014, Gray has run all coffee selection, curation, and purchasing operations; grown a nationwide network of more than 40 coffee roasting partners; and personally curated over 1,200 unique coffees. In this role, she oversees all coffee-related content development—from packaging to marketing—and her curated coffee experiences reach hundreds of thousands of consumers every year.

    Gray sees her professional mission as bridging the gap between the refined palates of the coffee industry and the burgeoning demand for Specialty Coffee among a broad consumer audience. Her products are designed to increase the national appetite for Specialty Coffee, and make the world of high-end coffees relevant, accessible, and fun.

    Gray earned her B.A. from Amherst College in 2005, with a major in Law, Jurisprudence, and Social Thought. She lives and works in Seattle, WA.

    Before I moved to Seattle, I enjoyed coffee, but I didn’t appreciate it, and I certainly didn’t understand what I was drinking. Now, a decade later, I’m in deep, but I still remember what it was like to discover the impact that coffee has: first the personal impact— as part of your routine, your buying habits, your culture, your palate, your lifestyle— but then all the global, environmental, human impacts. My involvement with the ACE and the COE program was crucial in helping me understand the extent and power of that impact, and it’s changed how I think about my own consumption, and what our business is doing/can do/should do, within the wider coffee industry.

    I know that what the ACE can accomplish ultimately relies upon coffees finding buyers, consumers who want to drink that coffee, recognize the difference, and understand why it’s worth their time, money, and attention. So much of my work at Bean Box has involved utilizing technology, creativity, and my own personal experience, to help more coffee drinkers discover what Specialty Coffee is all about— to understand all those impacts for themselves and feel motivated to do more with that knowledge. I’d be excited to use what I’ve learned to help ACE with their mission, broaden their scope and name recognition, increase the footprint of their coffees across the U.S., connect with more buyers, from importers to roasters to consumers, and help more coffee drinkers see all the positive impacts their cup of coffee can have on the world.