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Mocha vs Latte

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By Matt Woodburn-Simmonds

Life’s endless stream of choices can become overwhelming. And if making a decision comes before your first sweet sip of caffeine, it’s just adding insult to injury. Understanding what’s on offer at your local coffee shop and what mocha vs latte really means can at least make one decision easier.

The difference between mocha and latte is more straightforward than it may seem. A mocha is essentially a chocolate latte. Chocolate syrup or hot chocolate is added to espresso, then topped with textured milk and a small amount of foam. Your classic latte has a 2:1 milk to espresso ratio and uses the sweetness and silkiness of the steamed milk to soften the bitter coffee flavors.

There are a few more things to consider when deciding between the different coffee types. Read on as we look at every aspect of these two milky coffee classics:

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What’s in a Mocha?

A caffè mocha or mocha coffee is made from a shot of espresso mixed with either hot chocolate or chocolate syrup. This is then topped with textured milk and a small amount of foam.

The addition of the chocolate directly to the espresso gives an intense dark chocolate flavor. There will also be edges of bitterness and acidity. It’s basically like drinking a 60% dark chocolate candy bar with a subtle coffee flavor.

Most coffee shops will offer a mocha but it’s also really simple to make at home. You don’t need to follow some complex mocha coffee recipe. That said, because it’s an espresso based drink, you will need an espresso machine.

After making your espresso shot, it’s time to add in the chocolate. The option of either hot chocolate or chocolate syrup is available to you but we prefer to use hot chocolate.


Even the best coffee syrups change the texture of your coffee drink. Plus, they’re often loaded with sweeteners that leave a specific, sickly taste. And why go to the effort of making your favorite coffee drink, only to be left with a bad taste in your mouth?

But whichever chocolate method you opt for, you need to make sure it fully dissolves in the espresso. For each shot of espresso, add 1 tbsp of chocolate powder and mix until dissolved. For the remaining two-thirds, add textured milk with just the tiniest touch of foam at the top. 

Cup of mocha on a napkin
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So, What’s in a Latte?

Traditionally, a latte is made from 1 part espresso to 2 parts steamed milk with around 10% foam.

This small amount of foam is what baristas (and skilled home coffee lovers) use to make pretty pictures known as latte art.

This 1:2 ratio sweetens the espresso and adds a silky texture. Often lattes will be served with a much higher proportion of milk to espresso to the point where there is barely any coffee compared to the volume of milk. The result is a very low-strength coffee with a much creamier, milkier taste.

Mocha vs Latte: Different coffee recipes
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Origin of the Mocha

The mocha coffee drink originates in Turin, Italy in the 18th century.

At the time, there was a very popular drink known as the “bavaresia” which consisted of coffee, chocolate, and cream. The elements were all served separately and then mixed by the guest. 

A coffee bar called Caffè al Bicerin then started serving it already mixed together which they called the “Bicerin”. Not only named after themselves, but “bicerin” is also the name of the glass it was served in and is still found across Italy today.

This drink spread across Europe and to the Americas. It was in America that a drink consisting of espresso, chocolate, and steamed milk (rather than cream) became known as a “mocha latte”. Over time, this became shortened to just “mocha”.

The name comes from the famous coffee city of Moka in Yemen, though what connection the drink has to the city is unclear. The most likely connection is that Mocha coffee beans, a type of Arabica coffee from the city of Moka, were originally used to make the drink. That said, there are a lot of coffee beans out there labeled as Moka but having never been near the city. 

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Origin of the Latte

Latte is a shortened form of the Italian caffè latte, which simply means coffee with milk.

In Italy, the latte is a great daily morning coffee drink. They tend to favor coffee that is 2 parts milk to 1 part coffee as the first caffeine hit of the day with cappuccino being another famous coffee choice. 

As this milk coffee drink spread worldwide, the “caffè” part was dropped and it simply became known as a “latte”. Now it refers to a drink made from espresso and steamed milk, topped with a small amount of foam. This allows skilled baristas to flex their coffee art muscle too. 

The milk to coffee ratio is always large and should be 2:1. But, from one coffee shop to the next the strength of coffee differs. All you can rely on is that a latte will be a smooth, milky coffee.

Most coffee bars also use the latte as their vehicle of choice for flavored syrups. As a result, you can usually find a caramel latte or the seasonal sensation – the pumpkin spiced latte – anywhere you go. These modern latte drinks are a scant resemblance to the Italian breakfast coffee they descend from.

A cup of caffe latte and one of caffe mocha - identical to the eye
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Are Mocha, Mocha Latte, and Mochaccino the Same?

Yes, essentially the mocha, mocha latte, and mochaccino are all the same chocolate flavored coffee drink.

Each creamy coffee option follows the same basic recipe: chocolate is blended into the espresso before being topped with steamed milk.

Many coffee shops alter the milk slightly on the mochaccino. In this case, you will find more foam and less textured milk resulting in a more balanced milky coffee like a cappuccino. But this isn’t a hard and fast rule.

The difference between mocha and mocha latte is usually in the type of chocolate used. Mocha latte is almost always made with chocolate syrup whereas caffè mocha *can* be made with hot chocolate. But it comes down to the quality of your coffee shop as most big chains, like Starbucks coffee, will use syrup for both.

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Latte vs Mocha: What’s Your Choice?

Deciding between the two popular coffee drinks boils down to your enjoyment of chocolate and coffee.

If you’re a fan of the chocolatey side of life, then a mocha is a great decadent coffee choice.

But, if you prefer to taste more of the nuanced espresso notes with a nice soft milky blanket, then latte is the choice for you.

With the plethora of syrups and flavored lattes available at your favorite coffee shop (or at home), worrying about the sweetness of a mocha is a little silly in our opinion. Instead, worry about which will win out for your next caffeine hit: mocha vs latte? chocolate vs coffee flavors?


Matt Woodburn-Simmonds

Matt's coffee obsession started in 2006 when working as a Barista. A tendency to turn up to work hungover kickstarted his coffee journey which quickly turned into a love affair. As he moved on to work as a Restaurant Manager and Sommelier, the obsession continued to grow. Now, his passion is helping others to enjoy better coffee at home.

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