What’s a Cafe Mocha: Everything You’ve Ever Wanted to Know

What's a Café Mocha

Chocolate and coffee share several similarities. Both plants thrive in warm tropical conditions; both are known for their delicious beans; both chocolate beans and coffee beans are roasted in processed in similar ways.

Even the flavors of coffee and chocolate are often similar. There are varieties of coffee that carry notes of rich, dark chocolate, especially when darkly roasted.

Considering these similarities, it seems obvious that these two famous beans would eventually combine forces. Well, they have, and the cafe mocha is the tantalizing result!

What is it?

The cafe mocha is a variant of the cafe latte. While the cafe latte is traditionally made with espresso and hot milk, the cafe mocha is distinguished with the addition of chocolate flavoring and sweetener.

The chocolate flavoring traditionally comes in the form of cocoa powder, while sugar is used as a sweetener. However, more modern versions of the cafe mocha incorporate chocolate syrup.

Additionally, the cafe mocha is sometimes topped with whipped cream or marshmallows and a dusting of cinnamon or cocoa powder. It is perhaps for this reason that you’ll sometimes hear the cafe mocha referred to as hot chocolate.

The cafe mocha is a great drink choice for those who want the caffeinated kick of coffee without the overpowering taste. The bitterness of the coffee is balanced with the sweetness of the chocolate flavoring, while the chocolate itself brings out the sweeter, more mellow notes of the coffee.

Because of the cafe mocha’s palatable flavors and sweetness, it is often a drink enjoyed by the younger crowd. The cafe mocha has been called a “gateway drink,” because it is a drink that many first-time coffee drinkers start with before moving on to more “grown-up” coffee beverages.

But this doesn’t mean an adult can’t indulge in this delicious and refreshing beverage! People of all nations, ethnicities, and ages have enjoyed the cafe mocha for years.

And, considering the mocha’s ever-increasing popularity in the states (due in large part to Starbucks adding the mocha to its menu) the drink shows no sign of going away anytime soon.

It’s History

Unlike many traditional coffee-based drinks, the cafe mocha is an American invention. But its origins go back much further than that. To truly understand what the cafe mocha, it’s helpful to understand where the name “cafe mocha” came from.

The “mocha” in cafe mocha is a reference to Al Moka, a port city in Yemen. In the 17th century, Yemen was one of the top coffee exporters. Al Moka was the center of Yemen’s coffee trade.

The Arabica coffee beans, harvested in the mountains of central Yemen and shipped out of Al Moka were famous for their unique shape and yellow hue.

But what set these beans apart, more than anything, was the flavor. As opposed to the bright, fruity, and floral flavors of other coffee beans in the region, Moka beans were renowned for their deep earthiness and chocolate flavor.

While coffee drinkers in the Middle East and Africa preferred the more traditional fruity coffees, Europeans couldn’t get enough of the chocolatey Moka beans. And soon, “mocha” was what most Europeans called their coffee.

So, that’s where the cafe mocha gets its name. But, the drink’s ingredients and preparation have an origin all their own.

A coffee drink similar to the mocha first appeared in Italy. The bicerin or “small cup” in Italian, is a drink composed of steamed milk, chocolate, and espresso. Sound familiar? The bicerin is Italian hot chocolate mixed with espresso.

Unlike American hot chocolate, which is watery, Italian hot chocolate is made with cornstarch, creating a drink that is thick and creamy.

So, looking at the bicerin, it’s easy to see its influence on the cafe mocha. Instead of using cornstarch as the thickener, some modern cafe mochas are enriched with cream.


There are two common variations of the cafe mocha: the white cafe mocha, and the mochaccino.

White Cafe Mocha

While the cafe mocha is traditionally made with either milk chocolate or dark chocolate, the white mocha is made with… you guessed it, white chocolate. Preparing a white cafe mocha is no different than a standard cafe mocha.

There are still only three ingredients: espresso, steamed milk, and chocolate syrup. Some variations combine white chocolate and dark chocolate syrups.

These variations go by several names, including the tan mocha, the black and white mocha, the zebra mocha, the marble mocha, and the tuxedo mocha.


What cafes and coffee shops commonly refer to as a cafe mocha is actually a mochaccino. The traditional cafe mocha is composed of only three ingredients: steamed milk, espresso, and chocolate.

While a mochaccino is made with a double shot of espresso, steamed milk, chocolate syrup, and whipped cream. Often the mochaccino will include additional toppings, like sprinkles, cinnamon, or nutmeg. A richer, creamier version of the mochaccino is made with chocolate milk.

Additional Variation

One other variation of the cafe mocha worth mentioning doesn’t have a proper name, but its flavor is distinct. Instead of the traditional espresso shot, this version of the cafe mocha is made with a regular cup of brewed coffee.

You can either make this variation with the typical steamed milk and chocolate or chocolate milk. It’s a great variation for those who like the taste of the cafe mocha but prefer a more muted coffee flavor. The caffeine content is roughly equal to a standard cafe mocha.

How to Make Your own Cafe Mocha

Now that you know about the cafe mocha, all that’s left to learn is how to make one yourself! This drink is simple to make and delicious.


  • Coffee: This can be either traditional brewed coffee or espresso. If you go with espresso, expect a denser mocha with a stronger flavor.
  • Milk: While traditionally made with steamed milk, standard whole milk will suffice.
  • Chocolate: Either sweetened cocoa powder or chocolate syrup.


  1. Add 1 cup of coffee or one shot of espresso to a 12oz glass
  2. 1 tablespoon of sweetened cocoa powder or chocolate syrup
  3. 2 tablespoons milk

Calories: 78

Caffeine: 64 mg