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NKG and Coffee Coalition for Racial Equity Launch Green Coffee Specialist Program


Coffees awaiting hot water for cupping. Daily Coffee News file photo.

Global coffee trading and logistics giant Neumann Kaffee Gruppe (NKG) and the  Coffee Coalition for Racial Equity (CCRE) are launching a program to employ and train Black people in the United States as green coffee quality specialists.

With participation from three U.S.-based, NKG subsidiary importing companies — Atlas Coffee Importers (Seattle), InterAmerican Coffee (Houston, San Diego) and Rothfos Corporation (Hoboken, New Jersey) — the initial program run will involve the hiring of three full-time people with salary, healthcare and benefits.

“Black and Brown individuals are the foundation on which the industry stands, bursting with underutilized ideas and passions yet to be realized,” Phyllis Johnson, founding director of CCRE, said in an announcement of the program launch today. “Our work accelerates progress in building a more inclusive industry, unlocking opportunities to better solve our challenges. I encourage interested individuals to apply.”

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Johnson is part of a 15-member CCRE board of directors working to address racial equity within the coffee industry, which has historically relied upon exploitative practices and power structures to capture more value for white-owned trading and roasting businesses in the global north. Johnson outlined the group’s efforts last week, one year after her “Open Letter to the U.S. Coffee Industry on Racism.”

NKG’s own origins date back to the 1930s in Hamburg Germany, when founder Hanns R. Neumann began importing Colombian coffee to Hamburg, Germany, following the second world war. Over the decades and now under the leadership of CEO David M. Neumann, NKG comprises 50 subsidiaries in 26 different countries, offering a broad range of green coffee services.

The group is funding the first year of the program — called Neumann Kaffee Gruppe Partnership to Advance Coffee Equity (NKG PACE) — after which the program will be open to additional coffee industry sponsors.


Applications for the program will open later this month, with selections announced in October, and work beginning in January 2022 in one of four labs run by the NKG U.S. subsidiaries in Hoboken, Houston, San Diego or Seattle.

“NKG PACE Partners will learn to manage a QC lab, cup and grade many kinds of coffee, receive and share samples, maintain an inventory system, analyze green coffee and become familiar with annual global coffee offerings,” NKG said. “They’ll also engage with all departments and activities at the various offices, for a full understanding of the coffee supply chain, and be professionally supported and encouraged through a mentorship program provided by CCRE.”

The nonprofit Coffee Quality Institute, which runs the Q grader program, is supporting the educational components of NKG PACE.

David M. Neumann, Phyllis Johnson and NKG U.S. Head of Marketing Michelle Maisto will be discussing the NKG PACE program at a Zoom webinar this Thursday, June 17, hosted by The Chocolate Barista Founder Michelle Johnson.

[Editor’s note: This story has been updated. The initial version included a typo in the name Neumann, and incorrectly stated that the group’s subsidiaries were present in 27 countries. The group’s subsidiaries are collectively present in 26 countries.]