The difference between a latte and a mocha

Lattes and mochas are popular in many coffee shops around the world, but if you’re one of those people who usually sticks with a straight cup of coffee, those fancy drinks may all look the same to you.

What is the difference between a latte and a mocha?

The main difference between a latte and mocha is the presence of chocolate in a mocha. Both drinks have an espresso base. A latte adds mostly steamed milk and frothed milk to that, but could also be flavored with syrups. A mocha adds chocolate, steamed milk and frothed milk to the espresso.

The mocha’s signature taste is that combination of chocolate and coffee.
The mocha’s signature taste is that combination of chocolate and coffee.

Both drinks deliver the energy boost you’ve come to expect from a cup of coffee. It just depends on how you like to enjoy your daily jolt.

How to make a caffè latte

A caffè latte is pretty straightforward to make. There are a few different ways to make it, but you always start with a good shot of espresso.

  1. Pull a shot of espresso.
  2. Add a shot of your favorite flavored syrup, if that’s your thing.
  3. Steam and froth about 10 ounces of milk, to a temperature of 140-160 F.
  4. Use a spoon or ladle to hold back the milk foam as you pour steamed milk onto your espresso. You want about three times as much milk as espresso.
  5. Top with the foamiest milk.
  6. Enjoy!
caffe latte
Perk up your mornings by making art out of your caffè latte.

How to make a caffè mocha

To make a caffè mocha, you use a similar process.

  1. Place two tablespoons of sweetened cocoa powder or one tablespoon of chocolate syrup into your drinking mug.
  2. Pull an espresso shot and add to the chocolate mixture.
  3. Steam about 10 ounces of milk until it reaches about 140-160 F.
  4. Add the milk to the espresso and chocolate mixture.
  5. Stir until mixed thoroughly.
  6. Top with whipped cream and shaved chocolate, if desired.
  7. Enjoy!
Top of a caffe mocha with whipped cream
If you like to add a little sweetness, the caffè mocha is good to go.

Either drink can be personalized using different syrups or by increasing the portion of espresso. You can also try different types of milk.

Latte origins

The caffè latte originated in Europe and is very popular there—particularly in Italy and France, where it’s know as a café au lait. In either language, the name translates into “coffee with milk.”

It evolved from the cappuccino, which was a thing as early as the 18th century. Coffee with milk was generally served in homes rather than coffeehouses, and was strictly a breakfast beverage. The drink didn’t really appear in coffeehouses until the 20th century.

Mocha origins

The mocha takes its name from al-Makha, a port city in Yemen on the Arabian peninsula that is pronounced in English as Mocha. This port is central to the history of coffee, as it is the place where coffee was first shipped from its birthplace in Ethiopia to eventually reach the Middle East and Europe.

That city has nothing to do with chocolate, however. Italians began mixing coffee and hot chocolate more than 200 years ago, in the province of Piedmont. Coffee was often known by the name of the place from which it came (“java,” for example, which is an island in Indonesia), and so the name “mocha” likely referred to the coffee rather than the chocolate.

European hot chocolate is a much thicker, denser beverage than the American version, like something you would pour over an ice cream sundae. It is this ‘saucy’ chocolate that Italians mixed with coffee for centuries, and eventually with steamed milk as well.

Latte vs. mocha

Not sure whether you are a latte of mocha type of person? It really depends on whether you like a lighter pick-me-up or a more decadent treat. A caffè mocha tends to be richer, while a caffè latte feels healthier.

The latte is ideal for those who enjoy a cup of coffee but don’t want the strength of a full-bodied cup of joe or the sweetness of a mocha.

 

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Some people refer to a latte as a wet cappuccino because it’s like a cappuccino with more steamed milk (which distinguishes it from a dry cappuccino or bone dry cappuccino). Others believe a wet cappuccino is a distinctly different drink because it doesn’t have as much milk as a latte. Really, the line between the two is quite blurry.

The caffè mocha is heavier and more decadent, thanks to the chocolate. It can be made with chocolate syrup, pieces of chocolate or cocoa. It is often garnished with whipped cream rather than foam, coming out more like a dessert than a cup of coffee. It is most popular in the U.S.

 

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Some people prefer a latte over a mocha simply because it is not as sweet. Others appreciate both, but at different times of the day. I personally enjoy lattes because they are lighter and not as high in calories, and I don’t particularly like a sweet or decadent coffee. However, I indulge in a mocha every so often and count it as my dessert.

The latte is a great pick-me-up during the day, while I feel a mocha is better enjoyed after a long day at work, because you feel as if you are really treating yourself when you sit down and enjoy one. It really is a matter of preference. Both can be made to your liking by adjusting the percentage of milk used, the amount of syrup used, and flavor chosen.

FAQ about lattes and mochas

Which is stronger, a latte or a mocha?

The latte and mocha are about equal in terms of coffee strength. They each use an equal ratio of coffee to milk. Of course, either drink can be made stronger by increasing the proportion of espresso, so it really depends on your recipe.

Which is sweeter, a latte or a mocha?

A mocha is generally sweeter than a latte, because it includes chocolate, chocolate syrup or sweetened cocoa. A straight latte consists only of espresso and milk. However, if a latte is bolstered by the addition of maple, hazelnut or almond syrup, it becomes almost as sweet as a mocha.

Is a mocha a latte or a cappuccino?

A mocha is neither a latte nor a cappuccino. It is unique and distinct from either of them. What defines the mocha is the combination of coffee and chocolate, which neither a latte nor a cappuccino has. A mocha is closer to a latte than a cappuccino, though, because they use a comparable volume of milk.

Does a latte have caffeine?

Yes, a latte gets its caffeine from the shot of espresso that is its foundation. Its caffeine content would be similar to that of an espresso or a cappuccino. However, like any coffee drink, it can be made with minimal caffeine by using a decaffeinated coffee to make the espresso.

Does a mocha have caffeine?

Yes, a mocha gets its caffeine from the shot of espresso that is its foundation. Its caffeine content would be similar to that of a latte, an espresso or a cappuccino. However, it can be made with minimal caffeine by using a decaffeinated coffee to make the espresso.

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