By The Good of Grace Goes Rwanda

FOF Grace Hightower De Niro (yes, that De Niro), 58, told us there is more to our cups of coffee than cream and sugar. Not only is she a savvy businesswoman, but her company, Grace Hightower & Coffees of Rwanda™, helps to create a more sustainable future for the people of Rwanda. FOF chatted with Grace about her business, and recently spotted her coffee truck in the heart of Manhattan, a few days before National Coffee Day. See what she had to say, and enter to win a set of Grace’s coffee!

Grace-1

When did you start your business, and what inspired you?

I started thinking about the business two years ago, but launched it in January. I was hearing President Kagame speak about his vision for Rwanda and his people, which focuses on ‘trade and not aid.’ I thought that was such a powerful statement because the leaders of many third world countries allow handouts, without motivating their people to get involved and do for themselves. President Kagame inspired me to look more closely at Rwanda. He’s coming with such a strong vision after the atrocities in the country. On a trip there, I learned that the Rwandans are strong and want to support themselves.

Can you explain the ‘trade not aid’ philosophy?

The Rwandan people would like to establish sustainable businesses for themselves and for the country, and not just depend upon outside aid. By accepting aid, you’re not providing an infrastructure in your country to take care of yourself.

Why coffee, as opposed to other available crops in Rwanda?

I learned from the Rwandan people in New York that half of their country’s cash crops are coffee, so I looked deeper into Rwanda’s coffee business. It consists mainly of small farms, not big plantations, so we deal directly with the farmers. The farmers get paid as they bring in their coffee cherries, all hand-carried. They walk several hours to have the cherries weighed, and they get paid according to the healthiness of the cherries and the number of pounds.

How is your company improving the daily lives of Rwandan coffee farmers?

A number of the coffee laborers are women, who have started to learn about the financial side of the business. Growth in coffee farming has helped these women provide more for their children. In some areas, schools have also been built.

Where is your coffee sold here and how much does it cost?

You can order it online. It’s also sold at select Whole Foods and other markets. The coffee bags are $12.50 for 12 ounces. We also have a few partner restaurants, like Amuse Wine Bar in NYC.

What other business and philanthropic projects are you working on this year?

I try to be health conscious! I’m involved in a workout studio in New York City, called Body By Simone. It’s owned by me and my partner, Simone De La Rue. We started it because we wanted to have a place to work out, not just to lose weight, but to feel good. We’re hoping to open in L.A. quite soon. We started out with just women, and now men work out there, as well. I also work with the New York Women’s Foundation, empowering city women from all walks of life.

To enter to win a set of Grace’s coffee ($50 value), answer the question: How much coffee do you drink every day?

1 FOF will win. (See official rules, here.) Contest closes October 10, 2013 at midnight E.S.T. Contest limited to residents of the continental U.S.

  • Linda Carroll

    I usually have 2 cups of coffee a day. One when I first wake up, the second after lunch.

  • Love my coffee. Every morning I drink between 1 and 3 cups. First the aroma, then the taste of straight black coffee. That is how I wake up. My re-entry to my morning is always-coffee. <3

  • I have 2 cups of black coffee in the morning with breakfast. In the afternoon early evening I like a cup of flavored coffee or a latte. I LOVE MY COFFEE <3

  • I drink about a pot of coffee every day.

  • L. Rose

    A good cup of coffee is such a wonderful pleasure. The amount I drink per day varies but it is definitely a part of my breakfast. I especially love the aroma, which is one reason I do not have any instant around. Should I be selected, I would drink a toast to you with every cup

  • desiree melton

    i usually drink a half to one cup of coffee in the mornings. i sometimes will have alittle bit more mid-morning if i feel like it. there is nothing better than a nice hot stout cup of coffee to start your day.

  • linda

    very much of a coffee drinker I’m not without ta cup in hand .

    its always great to hear how one person starts a business that will help many others ( pay it forward) thank you for having the vision of becoming a business women and helping many others my home was destroyed by sandy last Oct still not able to live there because of not having resources and then I met Tom and sue Have been helping out in many many areas that are hit by storms. I now have sub floors and walls, my home is still not live able but what They gave to me. is not only in helping hands to rebuild but encouragement and belief in others and I know ill be returning to the home that I love. I’m buying coffee every day and bring them some when I do finially get to make it in my home I would make it for all the people that help out not only to me but to all that gave there time Love to have one big coffee kulch

  • Sallyois

    I drink two to three cups of coffee in the morning. One or two to start my day and one cup with breakfast. Also a cup with a nice dessert after a meal. Great!

  • JANET

    I need my Java to kick start my day. I drink about 4 cups in the morning then I am good to go for the rest of the day. Would love to try Grace’s coffee.

  • Vicki Moyer

    Coffee is not measured in cups, but in pots. When my daughter is visiting, it’s not unusual for us to go through 3 pots by 2 p.m. When I’m working in the studio, a pot goes by very quickly, therefore, another one must be brewed. Of course, that level of consumption decreases in the summer when due to being outside more or away from the house…however, colder weather brings out the coffee fiends we truly are. We like a very robust coffee, good body and smooth, non-acidic taste. Yes, we are coffee hounds, and no, it (so far) has not disrupted sleep. Take away my daily coffee at your own risk! (heee)

  • Is coffee the most consumed beverage next to water? For me it is. Just love it in various forms, iced, hot with cream only, cappuccino, espresso, and strong. Measuring in ounces, my daily consumption is usually 48 oz. and a blend of decaf and caffeinated. Her in the U.S. bottomless cups are the norm, whereas in Europe that is not the case. So it is an adjustment and very enjoyable to have a coffee at a Parisian sidewalk cafe, savor it, people watch, and relax. Would love to be enjoying that right now:)

  • Lorraine Speirs

    I would say I drink anywhere from 2-4 cups per day. My husband and I are huge coffee connoisseurs and are always scouting out neat coffee joints in the city (Manhattan)looking for that next great cup of coffee! Love Multi Region blends as well as an Ethiopian blend we just discovered! Would love the opportunity to try Grace’s.

  • kerrigans

    I usually drink 2 or 3 cups of coffee a day. I love coffee! I couldn’t live without it, especially in the morning.

  • wizardewu

    Usually one cup, sometimes another 1/2 cup as well.

  • Christine Norman

    One cup in the morning to start my day.

  • rosemary

    I could drink coffee all day if it’s a good pot. Thank you Grace for thinking of helping in fair trade coffee and with people who need your help.

  • gailyn shepherd

    I love a strong cup of coffee in the morning and one at night!

  • Genie Ellsworth

    None, because I’m a tea drinker. However, my husband loves, loves, loves coffee, and so do my children. They ask me for coffee for Christmas, birthdays, and anniversaries, but actually, they’re happy to receive it anytime. I’d love to give them some of Grace’s because I admire what she’s doing and am sure my family will, too!

  • smfsprout

    I limit myself to one cup a day. I make an exception on special occasions where I treat myself with a little something special added to the coffee – for adults only.

  • DianeG

    I especially love my first cup of the day but I drink coffee all day long. I make each cup fresh so I don’t keep track of how many, it depends on what I’m doing that day. I drink coffee out of a china mug, even in the car. People don’t understand why I do that, and think I don’t have a travel cup so I often get them as gifts. I have even received the ceramic travel cups that look like a take-out cup with a lid, but its not the same. I have a cup just before bed and sleep like a baby.

  • Carol Z

    Generally, three to four cups. It’s one of my favorite indulgences and necessities. I’ll be looking for this coffee and Whole Foods and can’t wait to try it.

  • I drink 6 cups of coffee a day, no matter how hot it is outside. It is especially good when it is cold outside, though. Coffee has lots of health benefits. I consider it a good thing!

  • ticki566

    Usually I drink 3-4 cups of hot/iced coffee during the day because I REALLY love coffee (especially when my husband makes it). I believe Ms Hightower’s cause is beneficial to everyone-the people of Rwanda and coffee lovers.

  • mprimo1

    2 cups in the morning is enough for me.

  • Barbara Mancino

    I have 2-4 cups a day, depending on what I am doing and where I am going. I not only need the alertness that coffee provides, as I am definitely NOT a morning person, I just plain enjoy it! I love the flavors of different coffees, and tend not to scrimp on this one luxury.

  • Ann weaver

    2 cups…strong and black to start the day and one later in the afternoon for a pick-me-up. Sometimes with cream for an evening dessert!

  • kmariem18

    I drink a couple of cups in the morning and sometimes a cup after dinner in the evening. I love a cup of good coffee and always start my day with one!

  • I drink one mug in the morning. I can’t take any more caffeine than that so I make sure it’s a really good coffee. I am curious to see what this coffee tastes like and also, I like that it supports the women of Rwanda.

  • Vikki P

    I drink two very large cups each morning.

  • bobbye

    I drink 2-4 cups most days!

  • Jane D

    I have to have my 3 small cups of coffee every morning.

  • chrisskins

    Four decafs. My son drinks four regulars. He’s quite the aficionado.

  • Linda Bailey

    Just one cup is all I need!!

  • Debbie Terry

    I drink two very large cups a day. All my coffee is fair-trade. Looking forward to expansion to California.

  • Kelly Baetge

    At least one cup. My morning ritual is after I get back from the gym and everyone has left the house, I brew a good cup of coffee in a french press and sit back and enjoy it along with the quiet of the morning, and maybe with a little reading.

  • Lorraine 53

    I love the aroma of a good cup of coffee & delight in drinking it more! I usually have @ least 1 cup a day!

  • val

    Every chance I get!!!

  • Deborah Burley

    Love coffee. I drink 2-3 cups a day.

  • Virginia

    I drink it every afternoon! So relaxing!

  • Janine Darnell

    I drink 2 or 3 cups a day. It’s that first cup in the morning I love the most.

  • BlueBear

    I drink a pot of coffee a day and even more in the Winter! (It’s one of the few vices I have now that I’m in my 60s and I relish it.) I normally don’t pay much attention to whether or not the coffee company is fair trade or not but Grace has changed my mind about that. I very much admire the “trade not aid” approach, as it goes straight to the heart of what we as a nation should be doing with other commodities as well.

  • Donna Washburn

    I have a ritual (to wake up); one cup in the morning at home, then one in a travel mug to have at my desk! Twice I have forgotten my travel mug at home and my wonderful husband actually drove it to my office! I’m so lucky!

  • I drink a cup on the train with all of my friends. Two cups when I get in the office. And, one cup at high tea time – 3:00ish.

  • Merrylady

    I drink at least 4 cups in the morning and occasionally several at the dinner hour.

  • Love my French Press, makes 32 oz or 4 cups

  • I drink two full mugs every morning!

  • Sandra

    The amount of coffee really depends on the day and what I have going on but I like to start my day off with a large cup of coffee. Some times my husband and I will enjoy a cup of coffee in the evening, especially if we are having dessert.

  • Rwilder

    1 large cup in the morning before 11am

  • vasslt

    Two cups every morning, and one in the afternoon.