The coffee revolution or ”coffee porn” in Castle

Sipping from my second cup of caramel latte for the day brings me memories of one my favourite TV series. Castle, which essentially represents a crime-comedy-drama type of show, is one of the most caffeinated productions I have ever binge-watched. I wonder now if I’m overly addicted to coffee because I’ve watched shows like Castle (FYI, the list includes Friends and Gilmore Girls), or that I’ve fallen in love with Castle precisely because I’m overly addicted to coffee. One of those mysteries I will never have the answer to, I suppose.

Speaking of mysteries, Richard Castle, the show’s protagonist, is a mystery novelist himself, who joins the NYPD homicide investigation team where he meets Kate Beckett, a talented detective that gradually turns out to be the love of his life. The two of them solve a great deal of cases together with the help of their brilliant minds, humour, skills, and, of course, thanks to a countless number of coffee cups consumed.

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“Castle and the coffee machine” scene

The coffee revolution, or as Instagram users would call it, the “coffee porn”, begins in Season 1, Episode 4, after Richard puts a harsh verdict on the precinct’s coffee: “This is quite possibly the worst coffee I’ve ever tasted. It’s actually kind of fascinating it tastes like…it tastes like a monkey peed in battery acid.” He, then, decides to take matters into his own hands, thus, buying a professional cappuccino/coffee machine.

Following the development within the eight released seasons, we witness not only the characters changing, but also the role that coffee plays within their lives, both among the characters’ professional and personal relationships.

It’s safe to say that initially working with Castle represents a challenge, one that is distracting and disastrous at times (“I brought you coffee” scene, Season 2, Episode 11), for Kate, whose impeccable judgement and seriousness are constantly challenged by his frivolous manners. Yet, as time passes, Kate gradually becomes accustomed to Castle’s rather carefree nature and tendency to surprise with his spontaneity, to the point where her day would not be the same without Castle’s coffee (“She took my coffee” scene, Season 3, Episode 11), whether that stands as a metaphor of their relationship that’s progressed, or simply as a symbol that Kate’s become too dependent on her caffeine intake.

In Castle Wiki, one reads that “coffee is not only a hot morning beverage, but in Castle, it serves as a way for Richard Castle and Kate Beckett to show that they care for each other.” The finale of Season 4, and, in particular, Castle’s confession (“Four years, I’ve been right here!” scene) as to why he’s been bringing coffee to Kate every single morning for the last four years, stands as the ultimate example of coffee’s seemingly small but, in reality, essential embodiment in the show. Later on, in Season 5, Episode 2 (“Where is my coffee?” scene), we see a rather comic development of the post-getting-together relationship between Castle and Kate who try to keep their romance a secret from the rest of their colleagues, an action that, ultimately, results in worsening the situation but adds to the importance of the hot beverage.

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“You’re bribing me with a latte!” scene

Season 6, as expected, delivers more coffee moments, such as the bribe scene from Episode 3, which installs another function to coffee’s profile in the show. Soon after that, in Episode 13, we are presented with the reviving powers of the beverage (“The Good, The Bad & The Baby” scene), which, at this point, after almost six years of everyday use, does not seem to be of much help. Few episodes later, in Episode 16 (“Do I smell coffee?” scene), coffee is introduced with a hint of personification, its ghostly appearance in the middle of the living room creating yet another mystery for Castle and Kate.

The coffee as a necessity is a recurring theme used in Gilmore Girls, for example, when presenting it in the storyline. It is clear to see the different approach, however, between the two shows. For Lorelai in Gilmore Girls, coffee’s seen as the bulletproof vest needed to survive life’s never-ending metaphorical gunshots (compared to the actual gunshots in Castle!), each morning representing another day at the battlefield. In her eyes, coffee’s become a dangerous addiction that calls for some memorable funny scenes, as the fanmade “Coffee coffee coffee” compilation shows, yet one might define her behavior as, in fact, a cry for help.

This TV Fanatic article addresses 14 television characters that might have had an actual (coffee) drinking problem and it’s no surprise that all of the aforementioned shows are included. What’s more, Vulture’s short article gives us shocking numbers of the rough amount of coffee consumed in Friends, which is essentially“enough to kill about 300 people”, as they phrase it.

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Still from Season 6, Episode 3

Compared to Friends, however, where the gluing force of the show is not the coffee itself, but rather the café, Central Perk, where the characters would hang out every episode, Castle does not have its own sacred space for drinking coffee. Even if the characters share a lot of moments in the room where the coffee machine is, that is hardly a place of sentimental importance and significance.

In Castle, it is rather the idea of coffee as a method for socializing, bonding and bringing each other closer, both within and outside of the working space, that makes the hot beverage so special and so revolutionary as a tool utilized by television.

As Gavin (2013) observes, “Starbucks was at its cultural peak, around 2007 or 2008,” leaving “an indelible mark on American society.” Castle, a TV series that began immediately after, in 2009, has continued the coffee revolution, adding further meaning and ideology to the art of drinking a latte or a cappuccino.

In the digital era that we live in today, social media platforms are always thirsty for consumerism and products display. The so-called “coffee porn” is simply part of the contemporary culture that suggests a desire not only to be up to date with the current trends, but also to be part of a community, where going to a café would actually signify bonding and creating relationships.

Last but not least, walking around with Starbucks takeaway cups, since not everyone can afford to buy a professional cappuccino machine, could also portray fans’ aspirations to be detectives or writers themselves, or, in other words, to be famous, rich, and successful. As Bradley (2016) writes, “displaying food choices to others is an expression of cultural capital but also of one’s aspirations.”

References:
Bradley, P. (ed.) (2016). Food, Media and Contemporary Culture: The Edible Image. Palgrave.
Gavin, D. (2013). Starbucks exceptionalism: An institutional ethnographic exploration of coffee culture in america. Journal of Psychological Issues in Organizational Culture, 4(3), 44-58. doi:10.1002/jpoc.21118
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