Mochas and lattes are two of the most popular espresso-based coffee drinks, and each has its own set of traits that a coffee lover could enjoy. In the mocha vs latte battle, who wins depends on what you like in a coffee and whether you’re looking for milky or sweet.
What is a Mocha?
Also called a caffè mocha, a mocha, at its most straightforward, is just a chocolatey coffee usually served hot with a base of either a shot of espresso or strongly brewed drip coffee. It’s a variation on a latte as the ratios are similar, but it’s a separate drink often made with mocha beans and different flavor profiles.
The recipe for mocha coffee varies between baristas and cafes worldwide, but they all include coffee, chocolate, and milk in slightly different ratios. You may also see it offered iced, especially in warmer weather, or made into a blended coffee drink with chocolate syrup.
A good rule of thumb is that when you see a coffee drink on a menu, if it starts with “mocc” or “moch,” that means it has chocolate added to whatever the name of the traditional drink is that follows it.
For example, the mochaccino is a chocolate variant of the cappuccino, and a mocha latte is a chocolate variant of a latte.
A mocha or caffè mocha on its own tends to be heavier on the chocolate than the coffee, making it a sweeter drink that’s more palatable to people who aren’t fans of the bitter espresso notes.
History of the Mocha
The word mocha comes from the coffee beans that first inspired the flavor. The Arabian Mocha beans came into port at the city of Al Moka (Mocha) in Yemen and were brewed, gaining a reputation as having a chocolate note. These beans were from a species of Arabica coffee beans.
In 18th century Italy, a cafè started to make a layered drink combining espresso, chocolate, and cream that customers could mix when they were ready to drink. This drink came to be known as the Bicerin.
When it came to the United States, baristas stirred it together and called it a mocha in honor of those chocolatey coffee beans.
How is a Mocha Brewed?
The mocha recipe is simple and can be tailored to your taste preference. Most baristas make their mocha more or less sweet by changing the type and quantity of chocolate used instead of adding sugar.
Some common forms of chocolate include cocoa powder, chocolate syrup, or melted chocolate, but sugar content varies depending on whether you want white, milk, or dark chocolate. Some cafes also use white chocolate to replace some of the milk and make a thicker and creamier drink that some drinkers may find too sweet.
Regardless of all the little tips and tweaks that you can make to a mocha, in general, all mochas are made up of three ingredients in roughly the same proportions from bottom to top:
- Double Espresso (two shots of espresso)
- Prepared hot chocolate or chocolate syrup, about one shot
- Steamed milk or milk substitute, roughly two-thirds of the cup or fill the remainder of the cup
Baristas tailor the amounts for taste and to make the drink sweeter or more coffee-forward and then topped with pops of flavor and decoration. Common additions for garnish and decoration on mochas are:
- A thin to thick layer of foamed milk.
- Whipped cream
- Chocolate shavings or sprinkles
What is a Latte?
A caffè latte or latte, as it’s often shortened in English, is an Italian steamed milk and espresso drink with a layer of milk foam on top.
The ‘latte’ has always been one of the most popular espresso-based drinks because it’s so customizable, with espresso shots and syrups available. By pouring the milk and foam onto the coffee, you can draw simple shapes and designs like hearts, trees, and leaves in the foam, known as latte art.
The simplicity of the latte has given rise to many different variants and names, from added flavorings to the use of tea to make tea lattes.
In parts of Northern Europe and Scandinavia, lattes are called ‘café au lait’ (coffee with milk), and a smaller drink with microfoam instead of standard milk foam is called a flat white in Australia. While not usually sweet, baristas may add sugar upon request or on the side.
History of the Latte
People have been drinking coffee with milk since the 17th century, but the specific drink called a latte is more modern.
After World War 2, American soldiers stationed in Italy returned home. They wanted to drink what they drank in Italy, so American coffee bars began offering the Italian caffè latte (coffee with milk). Customers shortened it to just a latte and added more milk to dilute the espresso base.
Asking for a latte in an American coffee shop will get you an espresso and milk drink, but a latte is an Italian word for milk, so asking for a latte in a local coffee shop in Italy will just get you a glass of milk.
How is a Latte Brewed?
A traditional caffè latte, one made with an espresso shot, is simple and delicious but made of just three elements from bottom to top:
- Espresso, 1-2 shots
- Milk, steamed and poured to fill the rest of the cup
- A layer of foam tops the cup
The process begins with one to two shots of espresso being pulled from the espresso machine and poured into a glass, followed by steamed and frothed milk or milk substitute. The milk is poured on the espresso while the foam is held back with a spoon so, near the end, the barista can add the foam in a layer.
A latte is a very customizable drink and can be viewed as a blank canvas on which to add flavors. The espresso taste is dominant at its simplest, without any other additions, but that can be easily masked by asking your barista to add a few pumps of syrup to the cup.
Mocha Vs Latte – The Key Differences
Now that we’ve outlined what a mocha and a latte are, let’s compare the two head-to-head so you can choose the right one for you.
Whether you want a caffeine pick-me-up early in the day or you’re looking to limit the amount of caffeine you consume, knowing which drinks have the most caffeine is an important skill to have.
While a plain latte tastes more like coffee than a traditional mocha, a mocha has more caffeine than a latte.
Although both have the same amount of caffeine from the espresso, if they have the same number of espresso shots, mochas have additional caffeine thanks to the added chocolate. If the mocha drink is made from dark chocolate, there’s even more caffeine than milk chocolate.
Flavor Profile & Taste
- Mochas are sweet, typically more dessert-like, and usually have toppings.
- Lattes are very versatile in flavor, often less sweet, and highlight the coffee flavor.
Mochas taste like coffee and chocolate. They highlight the coffee and chocolate so you can have a drink as sweet as white chocolate or bitter as dark chocolate.
On the opposite end, lattes taste as espresso diluted slightly with milk. They’re great starting points to enjoy how a coffee tastes or any variety of syrups and flavors.
Coffee shops sell mochas and lattes with seasonal varieties like pumpkin spice in the fall or gingerbread near the holidays.
Calories & Serving Size
Mochas and lattes can be high-calorie drinks if you add syrups and toppings. However, lattes can be a low-calorie drink in their traditional form if you ask for low-fat or fat-free milk.
Lower-calorie mochas require low-fat milk, sugar-free chocolate, and no additional toppings like whipped cream.
Both drinks are served in cups of the same size, usually 8, 10, 12, and 16 ounces or around 220 to 450 ml. You can ask for a mocha in a smaller cup if you use less milk, but a latte needs three times as much milk as espresso, so the cup has to be big enough to accommodate that.
The smell of freshly brewed coffee is a wonderful aroma to wake up to in the morning. Both of these drinks have that in their fresh espresso bases.
A mocha takes that strong and invigorating coffee scent and adds in the rich and sweet smell of hot chocolate. Coffee and chocolate complement each other; their aromas blend and help to highlight the best parts of each other.
The strong coffee smell is only enhanced by steamed milk in a latte, allowing it to retain all the notes characteristic of the bean, making it an excellent choice for coffee lovers.
We wanted to help you learn the difference between a mocha and a latte to choose the right one when you visit the coffee shop.
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