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, along with his wholesale roastery, Carrboro Coffee Roasters; Scott has had many opportunities to travel, teach and learn about coffee production, harvest, 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 companies and cafes Nationally & around the world, while also serving as a World Coffee Events Representative and Certified Head Judge for the World Coffee Championships for the last 12 years.  Scott sits on the WCE Evolution Committee and the Instructional Design Committee &  is a member of the CQI Coffee Corp., while also training coffee professionals & companies as a consultant in the U.S., and around the world; for technical skill, knowledge, and competition. He is currently a Head Judge for the Cup of Excellence Program.

            • 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 roastery. Since then he’s been a coffee bar manager, regional retail manager, director of training, director of coffee, a partner, and CEO of two coffee companies, and managed a vertically integrated international coffee company with two coffee farms, two mills, roasting and retail operations. Today, John is a Senior Trader with Volcafe Specialty Coffee. Based in New York, he spends his days connecting roasters with producers around the globe.

                • Eleane Mierisch, Nicaragua
                  Eleane Mierisch, Nicaragua HEAD JUDGE, QUALITY CONTROL

                  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. She is among the head judges in Cup of Excellence.

                  • Erin Wang, USA
                    Erin Wang, USA Cup of Excellence Senior Manager

                    Erin was born in Texas and has lived most of her life in California.  She studied Managerial Economics at UC Davis.  In 2007, while in school, she did a coffee internship with the Pacific Coast Coffee Association.  After university she worked for Morgan Stanley, but returned back to coffee in 2011 with Volcafe Specialty Coffee in Petaluma, California.  In 2013, she moved with Volcafe to Honduras working as their specialty project and sustainable manager.  After Honduras, she moved to East Timor for 2 years working with Olam starting and managing their quality control department from zero.  Erin returned back to the USA at the end of 2017, excited to be back and happy to use the great wealth of knowledge she gained to manage the COE program.  Outside of work she enjoys yoga, hiking and traveling.

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