NKG PACE Announces Selection of 2023-2024 NKG PACE Partners

March 16, 2023

Hoboken, N.J., USA; Hamburg, Germany; March 16, 2023 — As it nears the successful completion of its inaugural year, the Neumann Kaffee Gruppe Partnership to Advance Coffee Equity (NKG PACE) is delighted to announce the selection of its second official class of NKG PACE Partners.

With great pleasure, and following on a highly competitive and multi-part interview process, the NKG PACE Application & Selection Committee is pleased to invite Jalen Kelly, Shaa’ista Sabir and Zakiya Mason to be the 2023–2024 NKG PACE Partners.

Developed by NKG and the Coffee Coalition for Racial Equity (CCRE), NKG PACE is a paid, one-year, QC-focused program through which the three Neumann Gruppe USA (NGUS) companies — Atlas Coffee Importers, InterAmerican Coffee and Rothfos Corporation — share their deep knowledge of the green-coffee industry, as well as the quality expertise of their sister export companies in nearly every coffee-producing country, in the interest of promoting diversity in the U.S coffee industry.

The inaugural 2022 NKG PACE Partners — Charles Umeano, Porttia Portis and Jayy Terrell — will graduate April 28, overlapping with the incoming Partners to allow for a few days of collaboration and celebration.

“The knowledge and experience that the 2023 NKG PACE Partners bring with them is impressive, but even more so is their tenacity. I am thrilled for the opportunity to work with these individuals over the course of the year and to witness the drive, enthusiasm and adaptability that has served them thus far in their careers guide them through the program,” says Amanda Armbrust-Asselin, QC & Education lead for NKG PACE and head of the Application & Selection Committee. “As we prepare to say goodbye to one group of Partners and welcome in a new one, I am already anticipating the mark that each individual will leave on the program and the coffee industry at large,” she added.

CCRE Board Member and Eight50Coffee Founder Muna Mohammed, who participated in the Application & Selection process, also offers her congratulations to the 2023 NKG PACE Partners. “It was a pleasure to meet and interview so many incredibly talented Black coffee professionals for this cohort selection,” says Muna. “I feel deeply optimistic that with bold steps and commitments, like this program from NKG, that these employment experiences will change the trajectory of how knowledge and expertise is shared and who it’s available to for generations to come.”

Nicolas Rueda Latiff, CEO of Neumann Gruppe USA, enthused that the impact of the program is growing larger with each new generation of Partners. He continued, “Today we’re celebrating that growth and the pursuit of diversity and equity through actions, not just words.”

Any company wishing to support the NKG PACE mission as a sponsor is warmly encouraged to reach out at .

All of us at the Neumann Kaffee Gruppe companies and the CCRE wish Jalen, Shaa’ista and Zakiya the heartiest of congratulations and the very warmest of welcomes!

Press inquiries may be addressed to. Please follow along on social @nkgpace.

NKG PACE is a paid, one-year green-coffee training program and an endeavor of Neumann Kaffee Gruppe and the Coffee Coalition for Racial Equity. The program accepts in three individuals per year and is open to Black Americans, a group that experiences the largest gap in employment and decision-making roles in the U.S. coffee industry. 

Neumann Kaffee Gruppe (NKG) is a globally operating green coffee service group, focusing on coffee only. In more than 50 companies in 26 countries, more than 3,000 highly skilled employees are active in the sectors Export & Milling, Import, Farming, Agents & Representative Offices, and Services. 

Coffee Coalition for Racial Equity (CCRE) is a not-for-profit organization whose mission is to build greater racial diversity and equity in the U.S. coffee industry. Formed in July, 2020 against the backdrop of racial tension and social unrest throughout U.S. cities, the CCRE was born following the overwhelming response to Phyllis Johnson’s Open Letter to U.S. coffee professionals. 

Meet the 2023–2024 NKG PACE Partners

Jalen Kelly

Jalen Kelly (he/him) is a lover of all things creative and of finding creativity in all things. Growing up, he wanted to be a comic book artist, but over time that dream changed. In college, Jalen studied Graphic Design, and during these years a passion for music grew out of his love for guitar. Thanks to music, and surrounding himself with like-minded people, coffee popped up on his radar.

Learning that coffee was more than this thing that people use to stay awake and remain energized fascinated him. Eventually, that fascination turned into a job, and that job quickly became a career. When he’s not training new baristas in the café, Jalen can be found cooking, making coffee and tea cocktails, writing and recording music, or doing parkour.

Currently based in St. Louis, Mo., Jalen will join the Atlas Coffee Importers team in Seattle.

Shaa’ista Sabir

Shaa’ista Sabir (she/her) is a writer, self-love advocate, forever auntie and part-time dancing machine. Shaa’ista’s background is in theatre and the social sciences, previously earning two master’s degrees in writing (Creative and Digital). Her focus has primarily been on the representation of Black women and other marginalized groups in digital media, all while encouraging everyone to “revel in your greatness.”

Since 2015, Shaa’ista has worked in coffee as a barista, manager and most recently as a competitor in the U.S. Coffee Championships Brewer’s Cup Competition. One of her favorite aspects of the industry is being able to support others in their goals and coffee journeys. She also loves to know how the “whole machine works” and is a lifelong learner, because access is a key component to equity.

Currently based in Atlanta, Ga., Shaa’ista will join the InterAmerican Coffee team in San Diego.

Zakiya Mason

Zakiya (she/her) has been a coffee professional for more than 12 years and has had the opportunity to work for a few of Los Angeles’ most renowned coffee companies. She spent years as a barista at Handsome Coffee Roasters and Cognoscenti Coffee, and she managed all things coffee at Go Get Em Tiger, including green buying, quality control and menu development.

A former dancer and digital animator, Zakiya still practices her love for art with traditional and digital illustrations and anatomical studies. After graduating from the University of Southern California and working as a freelance animator, she sought out her first job as a barista so she could get away from a screen and connect with people in her neighborhood. While making art will always be a necessary creative outlet, her favorite thing about a delicious coffee is the relationships built while sharing it.

Currently based in Los Angeles, Zakiya will join the Neumann Gruppe USA team in Hoboken, N.J.