Do you remember the 2004 movie Hotel Rwanda starring actor Don Cheadle who played Paul Rusesabagina, a hotelier trying to save his fellow citizens from the Rwandan Genocide? Well, Grace Hightower De Niro, wife of Robert, was hugely inspired by this film to harness the power of coffee, Rwanda’s #1 commodity, for fueling positive change in a challenged country.
No stranger to farming, Grace grew up on one in Kilmichael, Miss. and knew she had to visit Rwanda’s existing coffee growers to walk the fields, meet the farmers & their families, and smell the beans as they were being dried and roasted. “The people stole my heart. They are just so genuine and want to work. They want to do for themselves and they speak from their hearts,” says De Niro.
Everything leading up to the coffee you get in each Grace Hightower pouch is done by hand. She sources all her beans from either women-owned co-ops or ones that have women on their boards. They grow the coffee trees, pick the beans, and then carry them on their head, sometimes with a baby on their back walking 1-3 hours.
All 4 of their blends: Medium Light, Dark, Espresso, and a Signature Series roast are sold at retailers like Whole Foods and Fresh Market or you can order online for $12.50 a bag. A percentage of each sale goes back to these farmers who are paid immediately upon bringing their cherries (coffee beans) to the washing station.
Photos courtesy of Grace Hightower