You’re standing in line at your favorite Starbucks cafe and can’t decide between a latte, a mocha, or a cappuccino. Which one is creamier? Which one is sweeter? Which one has the most caffeine?
In this guide, we’ll dive deep into the intricacies that differentiate the mocha from a latte. This mocha vs. latte showdown will examine the historical overview of each drink, their respective caffeine content, taste profile, calories, and ingredients.
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When you walk into a coffee house and order a mocha, you’ll likely get an espresso drink combined with chocolate and steamed milk. Interestingly enough, the origin of the term “mocha” has absolutely nothing to do with chocolate. The name is derived from a particular variety of Arabica coffee beans. Read on to get a short, but interesting history lesson about the origin of this beloved beverage!
Brief History of Mocha Coffee
Did you know that Mocha (or Mokha) is both a city in Yemen and the reason behind the “mocha coffee” moniker? If you’ve previously researched the history of coffee, you might have already come across several mentions of Yemen. This Middle Eastern country was once the leading supplier of coffee to Europe as early as 1536 during the Ottoman Empire’s reign.
Yemeni coffee was transported by sea, whereby it would pass through the Port of Al-Mokha before trudging to the city of Alexandria in Egypt.
From here, the coffee was hauled to the European markets by merchants such as the Dutch East India Company. This beverage was marketed as “mocha” coffee, referencing the city of Al-Mokha. Over time, the term “mocha” became synonymous with coffee. However, this explanation is still lacking: why does mocha normally refer to a chocolate coffee blend?
Although mocha coffee beans are said to have a chocolaty flavor, today’s mocha refers to a combination of coffee blended with milk and chocolate. Some sources trace today’s modern American mix of milk, chocolate, and coffee to bicerin, a coffee beverage from Italy.
This Italian drink was served in a clear glass showcasing visible layers of espresso, chocolate, and whole milk. Americans later adopted the beverage and ditched the layered serving–resulting in the popular café mocha we know today.
How to Make a Mocha
In the mood for a mocha? Well, you can easily brew a hot and creamy cup right in the comfort of your own home–with or without an espresso machine. This beverage incorporates different ingredients that collectively electrify your taste buds.
If you own an espresso machine, making mocha is pretty straightforward. Check out our recipe below:
Mocha (with Espresso Machine)
- Espresso Machine
- 4 oz Espresso
- 1 to 2 tsp Sugar
- 1 tbsp Dark Cocoa
- 1/2 cup Steamed Milk
- 2 dollops Whipped Cream (if desired)
- Pour and mix sugar with the cocoa powder in a cup
- Brew the espresso into your cup and mix it thoroughly with the sugar-cocoa combination
- Top off the cup with froth or steamed milk
- Finally, close your eyes, take a sip, and savor the flavor
Mocha (without Espresso Machine)
- Coffee Brewing Apparatus
- 1/2 cup Milk
- 4 tbsp Cocoa Mix
- 2 cups Strong Brewed Coffee
- Chocolate Syrup
- Whipped Cream
- Add your favorite cocoa mix to a coffee mug.
- Brew extra strong coffee (double strength), since the milk will dilute it.
- Pour the coffee into the cocoa mix and stir gently until properly blended.
- Place a glass pitcher or a mason jar full of milk in a microwave and heat for 90 seconds.
- Shake the milk vigorously every 30 seconds (3 intervals) until frothy, and ensure the jar is tightly sealed to avoid accidents.
- Add the frothy milk into the coffee-cocoa mixture.
- Depending on your preference, you can add chocolate syrup or whipped cream to liven your cup of Joe.
Generally, the term “latte” refers to a combination of milk foam, steamed milk, and espresso. It’s arguably one of the most popular coffee drinks in the United States–nearly every café from Manhattan to Santa Monica has an entire section dedicated to lattes on their menu. This renowned fame can be attributed to its refreshing, smooth flavor or the eye-catching presentations of latte art.
A Brief History of the Latte
Caffé latte is an Italian phrase meaning “milk coffee”. It’s worth noting that residents of Scandinavia and northern Europe use the term café au lait to refer to a combination of milk and espresso–i.e. a latte. However, according to historians as well as the Oxford English Dictionary, the term “caffé lato” (or caffé latte) was first used in William Dean Howells’ essay, Italian Journeys.
However, despite this history, the modern commercial caffé latte is often regarded as an American invention. Many claim that the makeup of a latte was an invention created for American tourists who wanted a palatable beverage in contrast to the more potent flavors of Italian espresso. The American-style beverage is believed to have originated in California before exploding in Seattle- the American capital of coffee- in the 80s.
Latte vs. Mocha–A ComparisonStrength
If you’re after a potent cup of coffee to keep you alert, a mocha is your best bet. Taking the example of a Starbucks coffee, a mocha has 175 mg of caffeine compared to the 150 found in a latte.
|Starbucks Mocha – Grande||175 mg Caffeine|
|Starbucks Cappuccino – Grande||150 mg Caffeine|
|Starbucks Latte – Grande||150 mg Caffeine|
Table 1: Caffeine content comparison.
Although a mocha and latte typically use the same amount of espresso, the difference in caffeine content is attributed to the amount of milk in each serving. Whereas a mocha uses as little as 2 ounces of steamed milk, a latte is quite milk heavy with an espresso to milk ratio of 1:3 or more. In a nutshell, a mocha has a higher amount of espresso per volume and, thus, has more caffeine per volume.
Taste Profile and Flavor
Which beverage is sweeter? If your sweet tooth is a significant determinant of your taste in coffee, we strongly advise you to give the mocha a try. Despite its higher caffeine content, mochas win the sweetness battle hands down, thanks to the presence of chocolate, whipped cream, and other ingredients such as cinnamon. Even sans the whipped cream and cinnamon, a standard mocha is characterized by a chocolatey sweetness.
On the other hand, a latte is characterized by a mild flavor due to the high content of steamed milk. Chocolate always trumps milk when it comes to sweetening the strong taste of espresso.Number of Calories
According to research, coffee is good for your health–it actually lowers your risk of death. This sounds like a win, right? Well, not entirely. The touted health benefits of coffee are associated with the nutrients derived from the coffee beans, and not other ingredients that contain added sugar. With this in mind, let’s consider the count of calories in each mocha and latte. Which beverage has more calories: the mocha or the latte?
|Starbucks Mocha – Grande||360 Calories|
|Starbucks Cappuccino – Grande||120 Calories|
|Starbucks Latte – Grande||190 Calories|
Table 2: Calorie comparison.
For the latte, the caloric intake depends on the amount of milk used in the beverage– translating into a calorie count between 150 to 200. When it comes to a mocha, the number of calories doubles or even triples due to ingredients such as chocolate syrup.Beverage Ratios
Espresso-based drinks are often distinguished by ingredient ratios. Unless you’re planning to be a free spirit by using your own recipe, mochas and lattes have standard ratios that should be observed; this affects quality and taste profile.
Typically, a latte is often 1/6 foamed milk, 4/6 steamed milk, and 1/6 espresso. This creates a milk-based drink with a mild flavor. On the other hand, a mocha is 1/5 steamed milk, 2/5 chocolate, and 2/5 espresso–depending on personal preferences. The high espresso and chocolate content make the beverage strong yet sweet.
Coffee aficionados are keen on both the flavor and presentation of their beverages. Although the serving methods of these two drinks differ from one region to another, there are some widely accepted norms. For example, lattes are traditionally served in a white ceramic mug to showcase the layers, including the latte art. Similarly, mochas are served in a glass with cinnamon or chocolate sprinkles on top. Of course, these practices often apply to commercial settings–you’re free to use a random mug or whatever floats your boat when you prepare these beverages at home.Variations
The coffee world is highly innovative and experimental, which could be attributed to the coffee bean’s diversity and versatility. Depending on how the bean is cultivated and under what conditions, a cup of coffee can have widely varying tastes, from nutty, flowery, to even herby. This has allowed coffee lovers to spice up their drinks to create new combinations.
In the case of mochas, common variations entail adding alcohol, such as Baileys cream, cognac, or sambuca. For a latte, some users tend to add flavors such as hazelnut, vanilla, or even chocolate syrup (thereby making it a mocha latte).
Milk for Mochas and Lattes
Espresso-based drinks typically require frothed or steamed milk. But it’s not just about picking a random packet of milk at your local grocery store–factors such as fat content and milk density affect the outcome of any coffee recipe (Note: Whole milk is the hardest to froth due to its high-fat content, but it’s also the most flavorful. Non-fat milk is the easiest to froth).
To obtain frothed and steamed milk, it’s advisable to use a milk frother or the steam wand in an espresso. This is a device uses a jet of steam to incorporate air into the milk while heating it. If you want to make frothed milk, place the steam wand near the surface at a diagonal angle. As the milk begins to foam, gradually immerse the wand deeper into the cup. When it comes to steaming, use the same steps as frothing, but do not move the wand. Instead, hold the wand steady until the milk reaches a temperature of 150 degrees Fahrenheit.
If you don’t have access to a steam wand, you can alternatively froth the milk DIY style–using a sealed jar and a microwave.
Final Remarks: Which Espresso-Based Drink meets your Taste?
The choice between a latte and mocha is fairly straightforward compared to the other variations of coffee. Although they’re both based on a foundation of milk and espresso, the beverages have entirely different tastes. That difference being attributed to beverage ratios and ingredients.
But, If you’re a chocolate lover or have a sweet tooth, a mocha is precisely what should be in your coffee mug.