WATERVILLE — In just a few weeks Churchill Elangwe-Preston will officially launch Mbingo Mountain Coffee, his micro-roasting coffee company, but his idea to make coffee fun, and fair for its farmers, has been brewing since his boyhood.

Elangwe-Preston, 42, began roasting and supplying fresh coffee beans last year, leaving a career in electrical engineering to do so. Mbingo Mountain Coffee is the first business in Waterville to roast its coffee in-town, he said, and began selling wholesale online and through retail partners like Holy Cannoli in downtown Waterville in December.

It’ll be at Holy Cannoli on Jan. 19 that Mbingo Mountain Coffee has its official launch. Although the business is just starting out, Elangwe-Preston said it has been a long time coming.

He grew up in Limbé, a coastal city in the African country of Cameroon where his family owns a coffee and cocoa farm. Elangwe-Preston learned the ins and outs of the business. He came to understand the value of handpicking coffee cherries (the fruit of the coffee plant) to ensure quality and ripeness, as opposed to harvesting them industrially. The name of his business, Mbingo, refers to a region in his native country.

But he also came to learn how exploitative the trade can be for farmers.

“They work extremely hard for very little pay,” Elangwe-Preston said.


He knew of farmers in Cameroon who could not consistently put food on the table for their families, and certainly couldn’t afford to educate their children.

That struck a chord with Elangwe-Preston. “Education is what gave me this platform,” he said.

He immigrated to the U.S. in the early 2000s and came to Maine in 2003 to attend Kennebec Valley Community College in Fairfield, where he studied electrical engineering. He continued his education in New York at the Rochester Institute of Technology.

Churchill Elangwe-Preston, owner of a new coffee roasting business called Mbingo Mountain Coffee, prepares Friday to roast coffee beans from Ethiopia in his garage on Silvermount Street in Waterville. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

Elangwe-Preston returned to Maine in 2009. The state, he said, reminds him of Limbé.

“Maine is beautiful, the people are nice … everybody is rooting for you,” he said. “It’s very conducive to hard work.”

Elangwe-Preston went on to work for many years as a quality manager at Wunderlich-Malec, an engineering firm in Winslow. But he was looking for something more, and couldn’t shake the feeling that he should turn to the coffee business.


His childhood planted in him a question: “How can I use coffee to make a difference?” he asked himself. “That’s been in the back of my mind all these years … I knew I needed to change my paradigm to service.”

He said he raised eyebrows when, in December 2021, he quit his well-paying job and decided to take a few months to travel back to Africa and see about starting his business. To those who questioned his decision, Elangwe-Preston said, “I’m not driven by money, I’m driven by values.”

Elangwe-Preston traveled to a handful of small farms in Ethiopia, Rwanda and Uganda, gathering information on their farming practices, getting involved with harvesting himself, and building relationships with farmers working there.

He returned to Maine last summer and began working out the logistics of getting his coffee from farms (each with no more than 300 coffee trees) to middle companies that ship out the harvested beans in containers, and then to his micro-roastery in Waterville where he roasts, grinds, packages and sells the coffee.

Churchill Elangwe-Preston, owner of a new coffee roasting business called Mbingo Mountain Coffee, smiles Friday as he finishes a batch of Ethiopian coffee beans in his garage on Silvermount Street in Waterville. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

Transparency is important to Elangwe-Preston. A customer who buys his Uganda Green Coffee Beans, for example, receives a lengthy description of the Rwenzori mountain range from which they are sourced. It explains the altitude at which the coffee was grown, where it was transported for processing and how well farmers have been compensated in that region.

His aim is to do away with ideas that coffee is a means to an end, just a way to get caffeine in one’s system. He wants people to enjoy his coffee in the same way they enjoy a good glass of wine, with attention to where it’s come from and its taste notes.

This year he hopes to partner with more mom-and-pop stores, cafes and supermarkets. He declined to share his sales numbers so far, since he’s still getting set up, but said that he’s on track to reach his financial goals for this fiscal year.

Elangwe-Preston also said he’d like to create a scholarship fund for the children of farmers harvesting coffee for him overseas, putting aside a percentage of sales from each bag of coffee. He is unsure how much he’d like to raise by the end of the year, but said that often anything — even a sum as small as 10 cents — can help children in desperate need.

“I want to create a light in somebody’s life,” he said.

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