Apply Today: Green Coffee Training Program for Black American Coffee Professionals

Neumann Kaffee Gruppe and the Coffee Coalition for Racial Equity collaborate to offer three Black coffee professionals a yearlong mentorship program.


Today, the application window opens for the NKG Partnership to Advance Coffee Equity (PACE). The new program is the result of a collaboration between green coffee service group Neumann Kaffee Gruppe and the Coffee Coalition for Racial Equity (CCRE), with the intention of introducing more Black American coffee professionals to the world of green coffee.

In a virtual panel hosted by NKG, several representatives from these groups came together to discuss NKG PACE in further detail, as well as its intentions and what they hope to bring to the greater coffee industry by launching the program. Featured speakers included BD Imports and CCRE founder Phyllis Johnson, NKG CEO David M. Neumann, and InterAmerican head of marketing Michelle Maisto; the panel was moderated and introduced by The Chocolate Barista’s Michelle Johnson and CCRE board member Brian Gaffney.

A Zoom screenshot shows four panelists side by side chatting about the NKG pace program.
Last week, NKG hosted a Zoom panel to further discuss the new program.

NKG PACE was a yearlong effort by Phyllis, David, and other members. David approached Phyllis after reading her letter to the coffee industry on racism, with a desire to lead a more proactive movement to create inclusivity in the green coffee world—particularly amongst Black coffee professionals. “We immediately got into a dialogue with our North American coffee trading companies who cater to very different markets,” David explained in the panel. “We wanted to do something that would be more than an instant reaction, sending a paper check, and moving on.” After countless discussions and conversations, the two entities managed to form a plan to “offer what Black Americans seem to be lacking: world-class green coffee training.”

The NKG PACE program will offer three Black coffee professionals of any age the chance to participate in a yearlong paid apprenticeship program, in which they’ll be paired up with three other green coffee specialists at different NKG-operated importing companies in Hoboken, N.J.; Seattle; Houston; and San Diego. During this time, they’ll be paid as full-time employees and given health care benefits as they navigate the world of green coffee and quality control. According to the website, the day-to-day activities of the program include lab work with QC managers, collaborative online learning and independent projects, and mentorship opportunities.

Some of the participating parties in this program are sister companies Atlas Coffee Importers and Rothfos Corporation, along with the Coffee Quality Institute.

Upon completion of the program, NKG is not only confident that the participants will be able to pass the Q Grader exam, but that they will also be capable of getting hired for QC jobs throughout other companies within and outside of NKG. Leaders of the program intend to assist the participants in job searching afterward through network building and legitimizing the curriculum of the program.

NKG PACE is a program tailored specifically to Black American coffee professionals for a reason. All panelists agreed and stressed that the Black American community is its own unique experience, and while some outside of the States may feel pushed out of the conversation, it was necessary for this to happen. As a result, they hope the program will inspire other groups to offer similar programs to advance equity in their own coffee communities.

The application, which will be assessed by Q Graders on the committee, consists of several long-form questions in order to better understand the candidates internally and emotionally. They will also test candidates on their sensory skills, so leading candidates should expect to receive some sort of home sensory kit to complete a number of tasks and respond to corresponding forms.

As the first-ever partnership to occur between CCRE and another entity, Phyllis says, “It feels both exhilarating but overwhelming. It almost feels like an out-of-body experience at times. And I have to re-energize myself …” And with regards to the past year of events, she says, “It feels like momentum, like we’re moving a step forward.”

If you feel like you have what it takes to be a part of the program, you can apply today here.

About Katrina Yentch 221 Articles
Katrina Yentch (she/her) is a freelance writer and Barista Magazine's Online Editor. When she's not writing, you can find her napping, cooking, and drinking whatever's on drip.