Rwanda’s New Coffee Buzz

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Rwanda’s coffee beans — now imported by the likes of Grace Hightower De Niro — are bolstering the economy of the central African nation.

In recent years Rwanda — once known in the West mostly for its 1994 genocide — has been enjoying peace and seeing signs of economic growth. One advantage: Its altitude, drenching tropical rains, and bountiful sun give the central African country perfect conditions for growing high-quality coffee beans. U.S. distributors have taken notice. Grace Hightower De Niro, 58, a philanthropist and the wife of Robert De Niro, launched Grace Hightower & Coffees of Rwanda in January. It’s a for-profit operation that aims to boost growers’ incomes by paying above “fair trade” prices to buy beans and then sell them to U.S. stores such as some Whole Foods (WFM, Fortune 500) outlets. Hightower De Niro says the idea came when she heard Rwanda’s president speak: “He said he wanted ‘trade, not aid.’ I thought that was really inspiring.”

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