Rwanda is known as “The Land of a Thousand Hills.” No matter where in Rwanda you are standing there seem to be hills everywhere. There are big hills pressed up against small hills, and steep hills giving way to shallow hills. When you walk down the road, you are probably noticeably walking up or down a hill. The point is, there are a lot of hills in Rwanda.
While these hills can make walking anywhere exhausting, or driving somewhere perilous (the traffic also makes driving perilous, but that’s off point). Hills make the process of growing coffee deeply rewarding. There are two types of coffee grown in the world. Robusta beans, which have a strong bitter taste are frequently used in espressos or some blends that value a higher caffeine content. Arabica coffees are generally more aromatic and complex in flavor. While not all Arabica beans are good enough for real specialty coffee, all specialty coffee is derived from Arabica beans. Regarding the cultivation of the beans: Robusta can be grown in flat plantations, while Arabica must be grown at a higher elevation. The rolling hills allow for a tremendous amount of acreage useful for growing Arabica coffees. The volcanic soil and temperate climate contribute in making the flavor profile one of the most highly sought after in the world.
Westrock’s commitment to Rwanda stems from much more than just the fantastic coffee that can be grown there, but also comes from the tenor of the people who call Rwanda home. In 1994 Rwanda went through a national tragedy of unprecedented scale. It created a schism between the dominant people groups of Rwanda, and it left the country in a state of chaos. Since then the country has come together to grow stronger, the people have worked together to try and rectify the mistakes of the past. Through sacrifice, humility, and a commitment to their country the Rwandan people have made leaps and strides forward as a nation. However, it was clear that they needed more help. The tragedy that had shaken them had taken its toll on the economy. Westrock saw the opportunity to make a difference. It saw a people who knew how to help themselves, but needed just a bit more help, and while we like to think that we’ve made a difference of the lives of the people there, the truth is, it is those people, our partners in Rwanda, who are our greatest asset.