What is a mocha?

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Coffee and chocolate are natural partners. The two are made from plants with similar growing conditions, and both depend upon roasting to achieve their fullest flavour. Also, many coffee beans already have notes of chocolate in their taste profile.

So what is a mocha? The majority of people will answer that question with two words: coffee and chocolate. But there’s more to a mocha than meets the eye. In this article, we cover all you need to know about this delicious treat.

We’ll also show you how to make one at home so you can whip up a chocolatey coffee delight whenever you feel the urge.

Mocha coffee: What is it?

The word “mocha” is short for “mocha latte” or a “caffe mocha,” which is just a regular latte with chocolate added to it. The term generally refers to a variety of coffee-based beverages that are made with milk, espresso and chocolate.

The “chocoholic’s latte” is based on the same ingredients as a traditional latte—espresso and steamed milk—but it packs in more chocolatey goodness with the addition of hot chocolate/cocoa powder and sugar. Some cafes or coffee shops use chocolate syrup instead of cocoa powder, but the result is similar.

While mocha is the most common name for this drink, it is sometimes also called mochaccino.

Where does the word “Mocha” come from?

The name can be attributed to the city of Mocha, Yemen—a long-standing centre for the coffee trade.

Mocha, also known as al-Mukha, is a historic port city on Yemen’s Red Sea coast. It was once a major commercial hub for Sanaa, the capital of Yemen.

The port of Mocha was a major coffee trading centre from the 15th to the 18th century. The coffee grown in Yemen during this era was sold as “Mocha” coffee to other countries.

History of the mocha

Mocha originated in 18th century Italy, combining the traditional Italian drink of espresso with milk and chocolate/cocoa.

It is thought that the drink drew inspiration from Bicerin, a hot coffee drink native to Turin, Italy, which was developed in the early 1700s.

The difference between the two is that Bicerin carefully layers the espresso, milk, and chocolate on top of one another (whereas the mocha mixes these three components).

How to make a mocha

One of the beauties of the Caffe mocha is that there is no one way to prepare it, and ingredients and techniques vary between baristas and coffee shops.

To make a mocha, baristas usually use two shots of espresso, mix in chocolate syrup or powder until it melts or is fully incorporated, and top up with steamed or hot milk.

A mocha can be served as per above or topped with milk froth, cocoa powder, marshmallows, whipped cream, chocolate shavings, or even an extra squirt of chocolate syrup.

With all that said, here’s our recipe for creating a mocha at home:

Step 1: Grind and dose

Grind your beans to a fine espresso grind. Do this just before you pull the espresso shot for maximum freshness. Dose 40g of ground coffee into a double filter basket. Distribute and tamp.

Step 2: Pour the chocolate syrup

Pour 20ml-30ml of chocolate syrup into to a cup. The volume will differ depending on the strength and taste profile of the chocolate you are using.

If you want to get fancy, try melting your own favourite chocolate in a pan and use this as the chocolate base for your mocha.

Step 3: Pull your espresso shot

Insert your portafilter into the group head and pull a double espresso shot into an espresso cup. The espresso should pour evenly and at a steady flow rate. You’re looking for a total volume of about 60mls. Tip the espresso into the glass on top of the chocolate.

Step 4: Steam your milk

Pour cold, full-fat milk into your milk pitcher and hold it under the espresso machine steam wand so the tip is just below the surface. As you turn the steam wand on, the milk should start to swirl around the jug, creating a whirlpool. You will hear the signature screeching sound that indicates air is being combined into the milk. When the milk reaches around 40 degrees celsius, lower the wand deeper into the milk jug and continue warming until the temperature reaches 60 degrees.

Step 5: Pour your milk

Pour your steamed milk microform on top of the espresso/chocolate mix. The ingredients should be naturally incorporated but you may want to give them a stir. Like with a regular latte, you should have a milk foam layer on the top. You can also spoon extra frothed milk from the top of the steamed milk if desired.

Step 6: Add toppings

Give your drink another squirt of chocolate syrup or sprinkle with cocoa powder. You can also add marshmallows, whipped cream, or chocolate shavings.

Mocha FAQ

What is a white mocha?

A white mocha is a new twist on the old caffè mocha recipe. It’s made with white chocolate instead of milk or dark chocolate and is usually sweeter and less bitter.

Does mocha taste like coffee?

Mocha could be viewed as a good option for beginner coffee drinkers as much of the bitterness is offset by the sweetness of the chocolate. Sitting down with a Mocha is kind of like wrapping yourself in a huge warm blanket on a cold day. The espresso shot and chocolate are perfect together and have a deep, velvety sweetness.

Is mocha stronger than cappuccino?

Mocha would be considered a strong coffee drink because it is usually created with a double espresso shot. Other popular milky espresso based drinks, such as flat whites, lattes, and cappuccinos, usually only have a single shot. Therefore, mocha has fairly high caffeine content.