Cup of Excellence to Offer El Salvador Immersion Program

The immersion experience will allow participants to grow their knowledge on Salvadoran culture and coffee varieties.


Photos courtesy of Cup of Excellence

Cup of Excellence is launching a new learning opportunity in 2024: the Origin Immersion Program, to be held in El Salvador from February 26 to March 5.

About Cup of Excellence

Cup of Excellence (CoE) is a 501c3 nonprofit that owns and manages an annual multi-level competition in coffee-producing countries. Since 1999, it has held competitions in 15 coffee-producing nations. CoE offers sensory training programs worldwide and focuses on small-farm specialty producers, which has helped raise the bar in coffee quality and benefited farmers.

Graduates of a Cup of Excellence Sensory Education Training course with Alex Pond (middle row, fifth from left), senior education and project manager for CoE.

El Salvador has been a featured country of the Cup of Excellence program since the first CoE competition was held there in 2003.

Carolina Padilla, president of the Salvadoran Coffee Institute, says in a press release, “The Salvadoran Coffee Institute is excited to see Cup of Excellence bringing back coffee buyers to origin. … We are proud to showcase Salvadoran coffee culture, heritage, and varieties such as Pacamara. We will highlight our traditional varieties so that coffee roasters can develop a deeper understanding on how to roast and appreciate them so they can share with their customers worldwide.”

What to Expect

Participants will get to experience the traditions of El Salvador while delving deep into the coffee industry there. Through visits to coffee farms and mills, there will be instruction in cupping, sensory training, roasting, and more. Attendees can explore Salvadoran coffee at variety workshops; learn about coffee production, processing, defects and quality control; and even enjoy a day at the beach!

CoE Head Judge and Origin Immersion Instructor Luis Rodriguez.

Meet the Instructors

The El Salvador Immersion Program will be led by CoE Head Judge Luis Rodriguez. In 2001, Luis served as the head of the economics department for the Salvadoran Coffee Council. He has since become a coffee producer, Q Grader, and instructor. He has worked with the Cup of Excellence program since 2003, coordinating the competition in El Salvador and acting as a head judge. He has also been a participant in the CoE competition as a winning producer.

Alex Pond, the senior education and project manager for Cup of Excellence, will also be instructing during the El Salvador Origin Immersion Program. He instructs and drives CoE courses and education initiatives and has taught courses in over 15 countries. Alex also works as a head judge for CoE competitions and ACE (Alliance for Coffee Excellence) Private Collection Auctions.

Alex Pond instructs a Sensory Education Training class in 2022.

Immersion Trip Details

Alex says of the course, “Along with all the farm and mill visits, students will also undertake some serious cupping training focusing on the traditional varieties of El Salvador. Students will learn from local experts how to roast those coffees to bring out their best potential. The class will culminate with an exam, just like our national jury test and SET (Sensory Education Training) exam. The top three students will be guaranteed seats on either the El Salvador CoE Jury or as observers in that CoE.”

The course will run Feb 26-March 1, 2024, and will cost $2,500 for ACE Members and $2,950 for non-members. The trip fee is all-inclusive and covers hotel, ground transportation to all activities, daily breakfast and lunch, as well as most dinners.

You can find more information on the trip and sign up here.


J. Marie Carlan (she/they) is the online editor for Barista Magazine. She’s been a barista for 15 years and writing since she was old enough to hold a pencil. When she’s not behind the espresso bar or toiling over content, you can find her perusing record stores, writing poetry, and trying to keep the plants alive in her Denver apartment. She occasionally updates her blog.

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