What Is Mocha? The History Behind this Flavor and How to Make It

mocha coffee with chocolate pieces

Calling all coffee lovers! Have you had your favorite coffee drink today? Mochas are coffee drinks loved by people all over the world. Chances are that if you enjoy a good coffee drink, you’ve had a mocha at least once.

These “fancy” coffees are members of the family of espresso-based drinks that also includes lattes, cappuccinos, macchiatos, and americanos. You can find them in coffee shops everywhere or make them right at home.

There are so many similarities (and differences) among different types of coffee drinks. So, the names might leave you scratching your head and wondering, “What is a mocha?” or “What is a latte?”

That’s completely understandable! Today, we’re busting through that confusion and straightening everything out as we clear up exactly what mocha is and isn’t.


What is Mocha? – The History Behind This Flavor

The history of mocha isn’t as clear as it is for some of our other favorite coffee drinks. However, most people believe that this drink started in Yemen and was made with “mocha” coffee beans. The beans grew in the mountainous regions of Yemen and were shipped exclusively from the port at Al Mokka.


Why Is It Called Mocha?

The name “mocha” originated around the 18th century from the port’s name, Al Mokka. It was a famous location to get a highly unusual coffee at the time. The beans made a unique dark coffee that had subtle chocolate undertones, and the bold, complex flavor became very popular.

Coffee shops in Europe (then later, all around the world) picked up on this and have popularized the flavor combination. Remember, the word “mocha” initially referred to the drink made from these specific beans. The first mochas weren’t sweet, but those ordered in coffee shops nowadays typically are. They’re a sweet coffee beverage that contains espresso, steamed milk, and chocolate.

Thanks to the relative rarity of these beans, they command a hefty price tag. This is why cafes all around the world now use other coffee beans to make mochas. Then, they simply add chocolate to impart that mocha flavor.


What is Mocha Flavor?

Additionally, ‘mocha’ can also refer to the general mocha flavor of combining coffee and chocolate. This flavor combination is sweet but also has that roasted flavor you get from a delicious cup of joe. It has become a classic that’s beloved by coffee lovers and chocolate lovers alike. 

Over time, the word has come to apply to espresso-based drinks as well as this flavor combination in food – usually desserts. How do you tell the difference between the meanings? You just need to use those context clues. And as if all that wasn’t confusing enough, mocha drinks can go by other names too! Mochaccino and Caffe Mocha are two other names that refer to the same type of espresso-based drink.


What is Mocha Coffee?

coffee beansIt’s a high-quality dark coffee first made from “mocha beans” native to Yemen. The term ”mocha” originally referred to this espresso-based beverage. Its name distinguished it from other coffee drinks because of its slight chocolate flavor undertones.

Although it wasn’t sweet, the beverage has evolved into a sweet coffee drink containing steamed milk and chocolate.


How to Make Espresso-Based Drinks (Like Mochas!)

Now that you know all about what mocha is and its history, let’s talk about the fun part…how to make it! Unless you are a professional barista, you’re probably wondering how these espresso-based coffees differ from each other. Are mochas and lattes the same thing? What about mochas and macchiatos? Just what IS the difference between all the coffee drinks that contain milk? And can you make them yourself at home?

Remember how I said there’s a family of espresso-based drinks? The good news is that these 4 types of drinks (mocha, latte, cappuccino, macchiato) all use a similar preparation method. Once you learn the method, you can easily make any of them in the comfort of your own home. Here’s what you’ll need to make any of these drinks:

  • Espresso beans
  • Milk
  • Coffee grinder
  • Scale
  • Espresso machine
  • Steaming wand
  • Appropriate size mug

Once you have all these items, you’ll follow this basic process for making espresso:


Mocha vs. LatteLatte machine

Now that you know how to make espresso, let’s clear up the confusion about the differences between each drink. So what is a mocha vs. a latte? Let’s break it down.

I’m starting with the latte since it’s the most similar to a mocha. Mochas and lattes are creamy and smooth and contain a plentiful amount of milk.

However, that’s where the similarities end. The latte is lighter due to a higher concentration of milk and the layer of milk foam on top. The mocha has more espresso, the addition of chocolate and is usually topped with whipped cream.

As a result, the latte is lighter and creamier – mochas are bolder and sweeter (and contain more caffeine). No wonder coffee drinkers all over the globe flock to both drinks!


Mochas vs. Mochaccino

Mochaccino pod

Now, I need to clarify the difference between a mocha and a mochaccino. The two words often mean the same thing, but that’s not always the case. Sometimes there’s a slight, subtle difference in preparing these two drinks.

A mocha is made with espresso, steamed milk, and the addition of chocolate. A mochaccino, on the other hand, is basically a mix of a cappuccino and a mocha. Another way a mochaccino can be made is to make hot chocolate and add espresso to it. See what I mean about subtle differences?


Mochas vs. Other Similar Drinks

Mochas and lattes are some of the most loved and common espresso-based drinks around the world. But they are certainly not the only ones. Because all of these drinks are made in a similar fashion, it’s really easy to get them mixed up with one another.

That’s why I’m clearing up the confusion right here by giving you the ratios of ingredients in each drink! Once you know the differences, you can decide which one you love most and make it at home.


Espresso-Based Drink Ratios

Mr. Coffee Espresso and Cappuccino MachineHere are the ratios for each espresso-based coffee beverage to help you understand the differences between them. Please note that different coffee shops may slightly alter these “recipes.” But this will at least give you an idea of how these drinks differ from each other.

  • Mocha is two parts espresso, two parts chocolate, and one part steamed milk. It produces a strong chocolatey coffee drink with milk.
  • Mochaccino contains equal parts espresso, steamed milk, and milk foam with the addition of just a little bit of chocolate. It’s essentially a foamy mocha.
  • Latte is one part espresso, two parts steamed milk, and one part milk foam on top to create. A latte is a very creamy drink that contains just a little coffee.
  • Mocha latte has one part espresso, 5 parts steamed milk, one part hot chocolate, and one part milk foam. The perfect chocolatey latte.
  • Cappuccino is equal parts espresso, steamed milk, and foamed milk. It’s a creamy coffee drink that’s not too strong.
  • Macchiato contains two parts of espresso to one part milk to create a delicious blend.
  • Americano is a shot of espresso diluted with water – a drink about the same strength as a cup of black coffee.


How to Make Mocha’s Different Variations

Ghirardelli Syrup

The precise ratios and ingredients for a mocha will vary just a little everywhere you go. There are a couple of ways that they can differ:

  • Chocolate – This could be chocolate syrup, ganache, cocoa powder, or even broken-up pieces of chocolate. Chocolate used can also vary in darkness, including milk, dark, or white chocolate.
  • Toppings – Common toppings include whipped cream, milk foam, or more chocolate.


Putting It All Together

Not only do the individual components vary depending on where you get your drink or your preference, but the process for blending them all together can also vary. You can:

  • Put the chocolate in first, then pour espresso over it before adding milk.
  • Brew the espresso, add the chocolate, and finish it with milk.
  • Combine cocoa powder and hot water, add espresso, and top it with steamed milk.


Popular Mocha Variations

Can of Ghirardelli White Mocha

One of the reasons this is such a popular coffee drink is due to its customizability. From hot to iced, white to dark, customers can change simple details to create drinks they enjoy again and again. Popular variations include the white mocha, the black and white mocha, and iced mocha.

  • White Mocha –  Simply a mocha made with white chocolate instead of dark or milk chocolate.
  • Black and White Mocha – Contains both dark and white chocolate to create a visually stunning color contrast and delicious mocha flavor.
  • Iced Mocha – Another popular version, it’s exactly what it sounds like, a mocha served over ice.


What is Mocha? FAQs

Now that we’ve covered the basics of mocha, it’s time to tackle a few common questions. Here are a few that some readers ask about this deliciously indulgent drink.


What Is Mocha Frappe?

can of Ghirardelli Frappe Mix
A mocha frappe (aka mocha frappuccino) is a mocha blended with ice to create an almost milkshake-style drink.


What Is Mocha Sauce?

Mocha sauceMocha sauce is a combination of sugar, cocoa powder, and brewed coffee. It is then cooked on the stove until it’s reduced to a syrup consistency. This allows you to easily add its delicious flavor to drinks, ice cream, desserts, and more!


Is Mocha a Coffee or a Chocolate?

Well, it’s a coffee with hints of chocolate. Since it usually contains equal parts of both espresso and chocolate, you could say it’s both. However, it’s most frequently considered coffee, likely because of its coffee base.


Is Mocha Stronger Than Coffee?

Lattes are considered to be the weakest coffee drink. Mochas are considered to be much stronger thanks to the espresso and lower ratio of milk. However, when it comes to caffeine amounts, mochas have about the same (maybe a little more) as a cup of coffee.


Is Mocha Good for You?

Because mochas contain a decent amount of sugar, they’re higher in calories and sugar. This makes them one of the menu’s most delicious (but least healthy) drinks. These treats are best enjoyed in moderation.


Where Can I Buy a Mocha?

Canister of Caffe D'Vita Mocha CappuccinoYou can find all of these espresso-based coffee drinks at local coffee shops all over the world. They are also available in large chain shops such as Starbucks and McDonald’s. And, of course, if you have the right equipment and the desire to learn, you can make them right at home. Amazon has everything you need to make your own mochas.


What’s the difference between iced caramel mocha and caramel frappe?

Iced caramel mocha is a coffee-based drink that combines espresso, milk, caramel syrup, and chocolate sauce served over ice. This refreshing beverage has a creamy texture and rich flavor profile, perfect for hot summer days. On the other hand, a caramel frappe is a blended drink similar to a thick milkshake made with ice, milk, caramel syrup, and a blend of coffee or coffee-flavored syrup. While both drinks have coffee, caramel, and milk, the main difference comes down to texture and preparation. The iced caramel mocha is a smooth and creamy, poured-over-ice treat, while the caramel frappe is blended and thicker.


Is there a simple recipe for mocha caramel iced coffee?

Here’s a simple recipe for a delicious mocha caramel iced coffee you can make at home:

  • Brew a strong cup of coffee – about 8 ounces. You can use your preferred brewing method, such as a French press or drip coffee maker. Set it aside to cool down for a few minutes.
  • While the coffee cools, prepare the caramel sauce and chocolate sauce. You can either make them from scratch or use store-bought sauces.
  • Fill a tall glass halfway with ice. Pour the cooled coffee over the ice.
  • Add 1 to 2 tablespoons each of the caramel and chocolate sauce, depending on your desired sweetness.
  • Pour in about 1/2 cup of milk or your preferred milk alternative (almond or oat milk). Give the drink a thorough stir, mixing in the sauces evenly.
  • Optional: Top with whipped cream and drizzle with extra caramel and chocolate sauce.

Enjoy your homemade mocha caramel iced coffee! It’s quick, easy, and a delightful way to cool down on a hot day.


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Written by Laurie Graves

Laurie is a 50-something wife and boy mom, who loves to share easy recipes, DIY home ideas, and food hacks. She truly believes that with a little inspiration, anyone can make their home and meals feel special.