What is a Mocha? 

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The mocha, mocha coffee, mocha latte, or caffe mocha is a much-loved melding of coffee and chocolate. 

In its most basic form, it is simply an espresso-based coffee with chocolate

‘Even though it’s not a purist’s drink, we feel that a well-crafted mocha can be made and served with integrity and pride. In addition, we’ve noticed that the mocha often serves as a “gateway drug,” … to stronger coffee and more austere drinks’

James Freeman, Blue Bottle Coffee 

In this article, we will answer the question: What is a Mocha? 

The name Mocha 

Somewhat ironically the name mocha has next to nothing to do with either chocolate or a chocolate/coffee mix. Rather, the name comes from a location; the city of Al Mohka in Yemen. Al Mohka is a port city which formed the hub of the coffee industry in the 15th to 17th centuries. 

Moka was soon used to describe the coffees produced in Yemen which were often mixed with beans from Java. Moka-Java blends produced a distinctive and sometimes pungent flavor. Over time the term moka or mocha became associated with coffees that had earthy or chocolatey flavor notes. 

Somehow, that seems to have been the base for the modern mocha coffee. 

The earliest recorded drink that is comparable to the modern mocha coffee is the bicerin or bavareisa in the 1800s. The term caffe mocha was first used in 1892. 

What is a Mocha?

The mocha (or any of its other names) is simply an espresso-based coffee with some form of chocolate syrup added. 

However, the ratio of coffee to chocolate syrup to milk ranges as far as you can possibly imagine. And quite simply that’s fine. Mocha is a fluid term and doesn’t come with a fixed and rigid recipe. 

However, most mocha coffees use a double shot of espresso, textured milk, and some form of chocolate syrup or ganache. Many mochas will also come with a sprinkle of chocolate powder on top but again this is optional. 

In addition to the standard mocha coffeew, many cafes now offer variations such as the white chocolate mocha, iced mocha, peppermint mocha, and caramel mocha. 

What is a mocha

In fact, Starbucks has the following list of mochas offered (I am not yet sure if it is impressive or ridiculous):

  • Caffè Mocha
  • Iced Caffè Mocha
  • White Chocolate Mocha
  • Starbucks Reserve Dark Chocolate Mocha
  • Mocha Frappuccino
  • Mocha Cookie Crumble Frappuccino
  • White Chocolate Mocha Frappuccino

As well as the seasonal options of:

  • Peppermint Mocha
  • Peppermint White Chocolate Mocha
  • Toasted White Chocolate Mocha
  • Peppermint Mocha Crème Frappuccino
  • Peppermint White Chocolate Mocha Frappuccino
  • Toasted White Chocolate Mocha Frappuccino

So yes mocha can certainly be a fluid term! However, the basic recipe to keep in mind is:

Mocha = Espresso coffee + textured milk + chocolate 

What does a Mocha taste like? 

The specific taste of a given mocha will of course depend on the recipe used. However, in general, a mocha tastes like a sweeter and chocolatey flat white or latte. The bitterness of the coffee is softened by the sweetness of the chocolate. If you are used to drinking other espresso-based drinks then the mocha will typically come across as very sweet.

As Freeman noted above, this sweetness means that the mocha is often a gentle option for introducing people (and especially hot chocolate drinkers) to coffee. That was my own journey. Long before I came anywhere near coffee, hot chocolate was my thing. Slowly I came to appreciate the ‘hit’ that coffee added to my hot chocolates. The coffee flavor grew on me, and soon I was an exclusively coffee sort of guy. 

How to Make a Mocha? 

Making a mocha is simple and completely doable for anyone with an espresso machine. Our favorite recipe is the one used at Blue Bottle Coffee.

You will need:

  • One double shot of espresso
  • 8oz steamed milk
  • 3 tablespoons chocolate ganache


  1. Put the ganache into your chosen cup
  2. Pull the coffee shot directly onto the ganache and give a gentle mix with a teaspoon
  3. Steam milk and pour it onto the espresso/ganache mix
  4. Enjoy! 

The Bottom Line- What is a Mocha?

So a mocha, mocha latte, or caffe mocha is simply a mix of espresso-based coffee, steamed milk, and chocolate syrup. It comes in every shape, size, and variation possible depending on the given recipe. 

While it is sometimes culturally maligned as not a real coffee, the mocha has its own beauty and unique taste. Two beautiful flavors, chocolate and coffee, merge into something new in this staple at any cafe. 

The mocha is simple to make at home and can be adjusted or tweaked to fit your own flavor palate.