I vividly remember the first time I dreamed of visiting the Koffee Kup factory. It was winter of 2015, I was a sophomore and lived in Sichel Hall, a part of the distant Back Five on Trinity Campus.
Sometime around midnight, I was on the lawn in front of Sichel with my roommate and his girlfriend, and we were enjoying the crisp winter air (as well as certain substances that lead to a yearning for baked goods).
At some point in our dazed conversation, I froze and swore that I clearly smelled the wondrous odor of donuts. I expected them to burst into laughter and joke about how I’d had enough, but they both agreed.
At that point, my roommate’s girlfriend Caitlin—a year older than me and a Vermont native—informed me that the heavenly aroma was likely coming from the Koffee Kup donut factory less than a mile away.
I spent the rest of the night speculating about what the factory might be like, wondering if it had a commercial bakery at which I could buy their donuts in the freshest state possible, or if it was still open at 1 a.m. Caitlin didn’t have any answers for my inquiries, so I went to bed that night longing for answers (and donuts).
Since that wondrous night two years ago I’ve enjoyed countless Koffee Kup donuts, but never had the motivation to go check out the factory first hand, until recently. Whether it was caused subliminally by an especially good batch of donuts, or just something in the air, a few weeks ago my fascination with this baking institution was reawakened. So, after a short email back-and-forth with the head of HR, Hannah Fanton, we scheduled a time to make my dreams come true by touring the mysterious factory.
The whole day leading up to the tour of the factory, my excitement was viceral. I had already bragged about this opportunity to my roommates for several days and eaten a lighter-than-usual lunch in anticipation of any free samples. Somehow, the tour lived up to my sky-high expectations.
First and foremost, while gearing up into factory-approved safety gear, I was flattered by Fanton—now acting as a tour guide—insisting I needed a facial hair net to protect the donuts from my “beard” (in truth, no longer or more impressive than that of a newly-shaved chihuahua). After gearing up, we entered the factory floor, as the familiarly tantalizing aroma of fattening dough pierced my face net.
Besides having fun and smelling sweet odors, I learned a lot on the tour. I learned what a 30 foot tall constantly-spinning donut-drying rack looks like. I saw that dough moves throughout the factory not by hand or by cart, but by small conveyor belts about 10 feet in the air, right above my head. I saw that the donuts are fried by taking a short trip into an oil-filled lazy river-type contraption, with a water-wheel-style donut-flipping device halfway through the ride.
After years of failed relationships, I finally learned what true heartbreak looked like when I saw a number of powdered donuts on the floor that had fallen off the conveyor belt. Perhaps sensing my looming sadness at seeing so many beautiful donut lives cut short, my tour guide gave me a free bag of crullers right off the factory line: likely the freshest donuts I have ever eaten.
After my transformative tour, I got to have a quick debrief with my tour guide to answer the myriad of lingering questions I still had. I found out that my personal favorite donut, the maple glaze, was originally a limited-edition seasonal product, but was so successful it turned permanent. I learned that the cruller, an often overlooked staple of the Koffee Kup line, was the first donut they made. I learned that the Koffee Kup brand started over 75 years ago by one man who would bake donuts at night then deliver them by bicycle the next morning.
When I told Fanton about my smell-induced motivation to tour the factory, she nodded her head understandingly. “We have employees here who grew up smelling the donuts and breads,” she replied. And if that sentiment wasn’t heart-warming enough, sharing those free crullers with my roommates that night certainly was.
In the end, I felt somewhat of a full-circle moment as my two-year-long curiosity with Koffee Kup came to a close. I recalled that my fascination with donuts spanned back far beyond even my own memory, according to a story my parents loved to tell me growing up. I was only a few years old, sitting in my high chair at the table with my two lovely parents who were enjoying some donuts.
While discussing how they planned to keep their children sugar-free for at least a few years, they briefly left the room to grab something. Upon returning, they found me on the table, covered in powdered sugar next to a now-empty donut box. Their initial parental instinct of panic soon gave way to laughter, as they realized their son’s love of donuts could not be tamed by the restraining seat belts in your average high chair.
I like to think of all these experiences as analogous, separated only by time. Whether it be the top of the dining room table during my binge-eating moment as a baby, or an industrial-scale donut factory following my night-altering experience of smells, one thing has stayed the same: my love of donuts has brought me to places I once thought were unreachable. And for that, I thank my lovely parents, their decision to buy a box of donuts that day and Hannah Fanton at Koffee Kup for making my dreams become a reality.