Missing the Little Things … Like Little KAF

by Kate Yuan | 10/28/20 2:10am

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by Naina Bhalla / The Dartmouth Senior Staff

King Arthur Flour’s Baker-Berry Library location — known to students as little KAF — has been closed for five months, and I’ve yet to successfully recreate their maple latte or spinach quiche. It might have something to do with my culinary skills, but maybe it just doesn’t taste the same without the delayed gratification of a 30-minute wait in line and the weight of an impending assignment on my shoulders. 

While the convenience of getting drinks, pastries or maybe even a birthday cake from little KAF may be gone, that hasn’t stopped students from getting their King Arthur fix. KAF’s flagship location — big KAF, now officially known as King Arthur Baking Company — is just a 1.5 mile trip from Dartmouth’s campus, across the river in Norwich, Vermont. 

Frances Pool-Crane ’23 is living off campus in Hanover this fall. She was an everyday KAF regular last year — as a matter of convenience since she had many classes in Berry, and as a matter of preference since an iced cappuccino was her drink of choice. She recently made the trip to big KAF this fall.

“It was definitely nostalgic because the drinks and food are really similar to little KAF, Pool-Crane said. “Even seeing that the cups are the same and the fact that we saw other Dartmouth people while we were there made it almost feel like being on campus.”

Nathalie Korhonen Cuestas ’23 visited big KAF for the first time ever this fall. She too was a regular KAF-goer, and was disappointed to learn that little KAF was closing in the spring.

For me, little KAF seemed like a uniquely Dartmouth staple, which is why I didn’t know for a while that big KAF existed so close to campus. It wasn’t until I heard that a local librarian and her husband back in my hometown go to Norwich every year to take KAF baking lessons that I learned the company was a nationally recognized brand. 

For students like Eleanor Amer ’23, King Arthur Flour was just a familiar brand on the front of a flour bag long before it was a College staple. Coming to Dartmouth and seeing KAF right in the library was a welcome surprise.

“I actually used to go to big KAF when I was younger because I have family in the area, but I went before I knew it as ‘big KAF,’” Amer said. “It was just ‘King Arthur Flour’ to me because I didn’t even know there was a location on Dartmouth’s campus until I visited.”

Amer went to big KAF this fall with her housemates and friends, and while she was greeted with the familiar long lines that she was used to at little KAF, there were still differences that made her miss the library location, like the fact that big KAF doesn’t carry her favorite vegan muffins.

Even with big KAF being relatively close to campus, many students still don’t see it as a reasonable alternative to little KAF. 

“It’s definitely an event to go to big KAF rather than just grabbing coffee in the library,” Korhonen Cuestas said. “It was really fun, but definitely more overwhelming because it’s so much bigger, so I wouldn’t go [to big KAF] as often as I did [to little KAF] on campus.”

Both Pool-Crane and Amor expressed similar sentiments. While it might be nice to have big KAF so relatively close to campus, travelling that far for coffee is still inconvenient for most people when there are alternatives like Novack or cafes in town. It also begs the question of what’s to come as a replacement in the Baker location.

“I hope they replace it with another local business because places in Hanover have already suffered so much with not having all the students on campus,” Korhonen Cuestas said. “The College should definitely prioritize an Upper Valley business.” 

Pool-Crane also raised the point that KAF was special because it offered something different from other dining options on campus. 

“People probably go to Dirt Cowboy a lot more now because they’re different and it’s a small business,” Pool-Crane said.

While there are other places to get a caffeine fix on campus, neither Novack nor Foco’s shipyard blend offers quite the same ambiance as KAF and that feeling of excitement over being the select bring-your-own mug customer who receives a free drink. 

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