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What Is A Mocha Coffee? Everything You Need To Know Is Here!

Coffee and chocolate have long been considered a match made in heaven. So it is no surprise they are often combined in hot and cold coffee drinks.

One of the most popular types of chocolate coffee drinks is the mocha. But what is a mocha coffee exactly?

If you are ready to try something new or just want a simple mocha definition, this article is for you.

Here we have all the info about this popular coffee shop drink. We explain what is in a mocha, how to make a mocha and even the best ones you can order at Starbucks if that is your thing. Let’s get to it!

White cup with mocha coffee drink topped with chocolate sauce.

So what is a Mocha, exactly?

In its most basic sense, a mocha is a combination of coffee and chocolate, for a slightly sweet, yet caffeinated treat. Any coffee drink with the term mocha in the title has chocolate added.

A traditional mocha is served hot in an 8 fl. oz. to a 12 fl. oz. cup or mug. It is made up of 1-2 shots of espresso coffee, a similar quantity of chocolate sauce, syrup or cocoa powder and topped with hot steamed milk.

In many cafes, the barista will serve it with a little more chocolate sauce or chocolate powder on the top, or top it with whipped cream for a deliciously smooth and velvety flavor. 

If you like a warm drink, or a weaker tasting coffee, then maybe this sweet sensation will be juuuuust right for you!

Due to the popularity of chocolate coffee drinks, you can often find regular coffee drinks on the menu with ‘mocha’ added to it, such as a mocha latte, or a mochaccino for example.

Vector illustration of a Mocha coffee cup icon with its preparation and proportions.
Caffe mocha definition

Contemporary Caffe Mocha Styles

Whilst we have provided the traditional definition of mocha coffee above, mochas are served in many different ways. This explains why there is so much confusion when trying to define what is in a mocha.

You can have iced mochas, mocha lattes and mochaccinos. There are also various flavors such as white chocolate mocha or chocolate orange mochas and even boozy mochas.

So long as the coffee drink includes chocolate, it becomes a mocha!

Popular mocha variations include:

  • Mocha latte – a regular latte with the addition of chocolate sauce and/or cocoa powder.
  • Iced mocha – cold coffee served over ice with chocolate syrup.
  • Mochaccino – cappuccino with chocolate added (more on this one below).

Many coffeehouses will also switch up their mochas during the holidays. They make speciality mochas for Christmas, Thanksgiving and other events throughout the year, like this peppermint mocha frappuccino

Some cafes serve mochas with a range of toppings, and they can come in various shapes and sizes, served in mason jars, glass cups or mugs.

Everywhere is different, and the beauty of the mocha is that you can alter it to your own tastes each time.

You can ask for an extra shot of coffee if the chocolate is slightly too sweet for you, or vice versa, you can have it without the big dollop of whipped cream and sauce on top! 

Just remember that there will be at least 1 shot of espresso (or brewed coffee) in a mocha, so to answer the question “is mocha coffee?”, yes, it is.

So although a cafe mocha tastes sweet and milky like a hot chocolate or iced frappuccino, there will be coffee in it, and therefore, caffeine in it!

A cup of mochaccino served with delicious cream on the top

Where does the Mocha originate from?

The mocha is often also known as the caffe mocha, mochaccino, or even the mocha latte, and is a chocolate flavored variation of the well known caffe latte.

The term mocha is thought to have originated in Yemen, from the city of you guessed it, Mocha!

Yemen

Centuries ago, Yemen was actually at the heart of the coffee trade, and one of the biggest exporters of coffee in the world.

Their most prized exports were the Moka beans, which referred to the fact that the beans were initially imported from Al Moka – a Yemeni port city which reigned supreme as the center for the coffee trade in the 17th century!

As a result, the city of Moka became a hub of coffee drinks and coffee drinkers.

So the term mocha was originally used to describe the unique Moka beans that Yemen had begun to export.

These beans were a variety of the Arabica coffee beans that we know so well.

The immense richness of the mocha beans is what made them so popular around Europe, and eventually the world, as these beans offered a more earthy, rich, strong taste that other beans did not. 

traditional cup of mocha coffee

However the chocolatey mocha drink that we know today is a little harder to trace back.

Whilst some studies show that it originated in Yemen, others say that the Italians did it first.

Italy

Most of the coffee drinks we know today have been influenced by Italian culture, or invented by the Italians. Their love of coffee is what gave us the latte, cappuccino, and the espresso machine

Some say that the mocha is very similar to the bicerin coffee drink, which was native to the area of Piedmont, in Italy. This drink was first made with steamed milk, hot chocolate and espresso.

This drink would have consisted of thick hot cocoa, made with cornstarch to make it creamy and rich, and combined with coffee and milk which is pretty close to the mocha we drink nowadays! 

In the modern day, a mocha is simply the term for the chocolate flavored coffee drink that we love, and it does not mean that it was made with traditional Yemen Mocha beans, or that it comes from Al Moka. 

How do you make a Mocha?

If you want to make your own at home mocha, then we have you covered!

Check out this simple step by step guide to make your own caffeinated, chocolatey delight.

hot mocha coffee with whipped cream and chocolate syrup

Mocha ingredients and equipment:

  • A coffee machine with a steam wand
  • Ground coffee (see our top picks here)
  • Milk
  • Milk jug
  • Thermometer
  • Chocolate sauce, melted chocolate or cocoa powder
  • Whipped cream (optional)

With your ingredients and equipment at the ready, you can prepare your mocha.

Steps to make a mocha coffee

Below are the steps for how to make mocha at home.

We use an espresso machine to make a mocha. But don’t worry if you don’t have one – you can substitute any kind of coffee to make a mocha coffee at home.

A moka pot, drip coffee pot or french press all work just as well.

  1. The first step is to brew 1-2 shots of espresso with your machine or brew coffee using your preferred method.
  2. With your shots of espresso ready, add in two teaspoons of cocoa powder and mix it in until completely combined with the espresso.
  3. Or, if using a syrup, add 2 tablespoons of chocolate syrup to the espresso and stir to combine.
  4. Then, fill your milk jug with milk, and use the steam wand on your coffee machine to steam and foam the milk. Make sure you get a good top layer of foam to work with. A handheld milk frother like this one works well too.
  5. Once you have your steamed milk, pour it into the cup with the chocolate and espresso.
  6. Finally, top with a good helping of whipped cream, and dust with cocoa powder to serve.
  7. Alternatively, you can add chocolate sauce on top of the cream for a really sweet finish. 

A common question is are mochas hot or cold? The good news is they can be either!

If warm drinks aren’t your thing, you can make an iced mocha with cold milk instead of steamed milk, and topped with ice for a cool, refreshing beverage.

To make an iced mocha, fill your glass 3/4 full with ice cubes, pour your combined espresso and chocolate sauce over the top and then top up with cold milk and whipped cream.

A DIY iced mocha is the perfect cold coffee drink for the hot Summer months.

iced mocha coffee drink in tall glass.

What is the difference between a Mocha and a Mochaccino?

Whilst the mocha and mochaccino are both made with espresso, steamed milk and either chocolate sauce or powder, they are slightly different in how they are put together.

The main difference between a mocha and a mochaccino is the ratio of coffee to milk, similar to the difference between a latte and cappuccino.

The mocha is most often served like a latte, with the addition of chocolate, whereas the mochaccino is served like a cappuccino, with the addition of chocolate. 

The cappuccino and the latte are made with the same ingredients, but are slightly different in the way that they are served. The same goes for a mocha and a mochaccino. 

mochaccino in orange coffee cup with marshmallows

So how do lattes and cappuccinos differ?

Well, a latte is made with ⅓ espresso, ⅔ steamed milk, and topped with a small amount of foam, whereas the cappuccino is made with ⅓ espresso, ⅓ steamed milk and ⅓ foamed milk.

In addition the latte is often served in a tall glass or mug, whereas the cappuccino is served in a smaller cappuccino cup

Just to add even more confusion, some coffee places just call it a mochaccino even if it is a regular coffee, because it has a dusting of cocoa powder on top! 

Starbucks and McCafe Mochas

Starbucks and McDonald’s are some of the most popular places to get a coffee fix, and offer a range of espresso coffee drinks, including the Mocha!

However, these can vary as the companies often add different syrups and flavorings to market them to the masses.

For instance, at Starbucks, you can order a Caffe Mocha, White Chocolate Mocha, Peppermint Mocha, Dark Chocolate Mocha, Toasted White Chocolate Mocha, Mocha Frappuccino and many more varieties.

You can also purchase these as hot drinks, or iced, or with an extra shot of espresso!

You could also try the Mocha Cookie Crumble Frappuccino that Starbucks offers.

It tastes more like a chocolate milkshake than a coffee, but it still has espresso to give you a caffeine buzz.

All of Starbucks’ Mocha drinks will be made with espresso, milk, and their own mocha syrup which is made with sugar and cocoa powder for a chocolate flavored taste sensation. 

At McDonald’s, you can also try the Mocha, Iced Mocha, Caramel Mocha or the Mocha Frappe.

These drinks are made in a similar way to Starbucks, but are often served with a lot of whipped cream and chocolate syrups and sauces!

blended iced mocha coffee drink with whipped cream.

Summary

To summarize, a mocha is a coffee beverage that is made with espresso, steamed milk, and chocolate. It is essentially coffee mixed with hot chocolate for a sweet, smooth, less bitter, caffeinated drink. 

With the help of our guide, you now know exactly what is mocha, what ingredients are used and how it should be made!

So, why not try this delicious, sweet coffee for yourself. Or, impress your friends with your knowledge about the origin of the mocha, and where it got its name from. 

The best part is, you can customize the mocha to your own preferences and taste.

For more coffee drink definitions, see our Know Your Coffee series or browse all our brew guides here.

More coffee drinks explained

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cappuccino cup with mocha coffee with text complete guide to mocha coffee.
About Rachel R

Founder of Creators of Coffee, Rachel is a passionate coffee lover, SCA member and former barista, who also loves to research and share practical tips on everything to do with coffee. Favorite way to make coffee: With an Espresso Machine

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