Latte Vs Mocha – The DrinkStack ‘Know Your Coffee’ Series

What’s the difference between the latte vs mocha? Which one is the most popular per region and country?

Latte Vs Mocha Made Simple

The latte is espresso and steamed milk with a little topping of microfoam. The mocha is the same thing…but with chocolate!

Nice and easy, right? Choosing which one is which will depend on your sweet tooth. You can customize your drink to include plant-based milk, different types of chocolate, and toppings of whipped cream. I always viewed the latte as a supplemental or standalone drink, depending on the time of day, while the mocha is firmly in dessert territory. Even my own sweet tooth needs a break once in a while.

The mocha adds a hot chocolate spin to the coffee drink without totally overwhelming the coffee flavors. It was a popular choice back during my barista days, including both hot and cold versions. Speaking of which! While we’re on the topic of clearing up misused terms, make sure not to confuse frappuccinos and iced coffee. The former uses blended ice to create a smoothie-like texture, while the latter is just espresso and milk dumped over ice cubes.

The latte vs mocha is a much simpler distinction than the macchiato vs cortado. There are still a few things that need to be cleared up, though…

Where Did The Mocha Come From?

We hear the word ‘mocha’ so often it’s completely lost its original meaning. Yes, it didn’t actually start out as a chocolate-based coffee drink.

Much like the latte, the mocha has had some of its history blurred together. The term ‘mocha’ first came from a popular port in Yemen that often distributed coffee. That coffee was usually dark roasted and characterized by its very rich, chocolatey flavors. Over the centuries the port and beans became conflated as one, birthing the mocha as one of today’s most requested espresso-based coffee drinks. You’d be hard-pressed to know someone who hasn’t at least heard of it, much less tried it and fallen in love.

The mocha comes with its own varieties and unique details, just like the latte. Some cafes will use chocolate syrup to craft their drinks, while others even create their own in-house chocolate. Cocoa powder is sometimes used, though it can sneak too close to a traditional hot chocolate drink for some. Funnily enough, I’m not a fan of white chocolate…unless it’s in a coffee drink. White chocolate hazelnut mochas are the unsung hero of the coffee industry, as far as I’m concerned.

To reiterate: a mocha is a latte with chocolate, but originally started out as a coffee trading port in Yemen. The more you know!

What Are Other Commonly Misconstrued Coffee Terms?

Did you know the caffè latte and latte are one and the same? How about the caffè mocha and the mocha? For all that coffee terminology can be vast and complicated, it starts to show similar patterns after a while.

The cappuccino and macchiato are confused almost as often as cappuccino and espresso. White coffee and the flat white are also frequently mixed up. It helps to remember that most of today’s coffee drinks use a base of either espresso or drip coffee, then layer in milk, chocolate, microfoam, froth, and/or syrup. The amount of these ingredients, or how they’re prepared, adds further subtlety that sets them apart. The macchiato and cortado are virtually identical, with the latter using a little more milk and microfoam.

What’s the difference between microfoam and froth? Glad you asked! The former is crafted using milk steam wands, using a signature swirling effect that adds tiny bubbles of air for a silky result. It’s a dream for latte art and easy to customize with a few swirls of the carafe. Foam, on the other hand, is dry and light. It can be sculpted or dolloped like whipped cream but is too stiff to make latte art with.

If you want to continue learning new coffee terms, check out my other articles on the matter. Now for the rest of the latte vs mocha debate…

The Most Popular Coffee Drinks In North America

 The United States is a country filled to overflowing with cafes and roasteries. It’s the birthplace of Starbucks, as well as a culture that runs on caffeine. When it’s not creating trends, it’s scooping them up and adding its own spin.

2020 kept the ball rolling on coffee trends defined years before. According to Statista, espresso-based drinks are the preferred coffee beverage in the United States. They account for around 40% of American consumption, usually at cafes, and include drinks like lattes, mochas, and cappuccinos. It’s important to distinguish the difference between gourmet and non-gourmet coffee here, as the former is increasing in demand for its more consistent claims to sustainability and higher quality. A bag of specialty roasted beans from a micro-roaster is considered gourmet, while instant coffee from the grocery store would be non-gourmet.

When it comes to drinking habits, Americans are just as coffee hungry as they’ve ever been. Daily Coffee News cements the daily cup amount to average at two and a half per day, with a chunk of the population either drinking coffee rarely or not at all. These numbers don’t differentiate between homebrewing and cafe purchases, though the former has no doubt gone up due to the pandemic. Their additional 2020 coffee drink trend report stresses the popularity of the cappuccino and latte, with the mocha hovering behind.

The latte is the most commonly served drink in Canada, to boot. That’s one point to the classics! Both the United States and Canada lean hard toward the standard espresso and milk…but what about Europe?

The Most Popular Coffee Drinks In Europe

Americans are a huge fan of espresso-based drinks. At least half drink coffee regularly or semi-regularly. Where does Europe chalk up on the latte vs mocha debate?

Europe is the birthplace of many iconic drink recipes like the cappuccino and the macchiato. It also established the Moka pot, one of today’s easiest and most accessible homebrewing methods. It stands to reason espresso-based coffee consumption is doing well. Home coffee consumption remains the minority according to Statista, which isn’t a surprise when you consider how popular and romanticized European coffee shops are. As for the actual drinks themselves, it really depends on the region you’re in.

It’s times like these I really appreciate how individualistic coffee is. The cortado is commonly served throughout Spain, while the cafe au lait remains France’s go-to. Now, it’s important to note that the cafe au lait simply means ‘coffee with milk’. While that’s usually assumed to be drip coffee with milk in the States, it can also mean a latte in France. Belgium, home of the world-famous Belgian chocolate, is unsurprisingly the most in love with coffee and chocolate hybrids.

Looks like the latte vs mocha debate is pretty split when it comes to Europe. How about one more continent?

The Most Popular Coffee Drinks In Africa

 It’s not common to hear about coffee consumption trends in African countries. There’s a reason for that.

Ethiopia is widely acknowledged as the origin of the coffee bean as we know it. Uganda, Kenya, and Rwanda are some of today’s best producers. Cafe consumption, however, is not as common as it is in the West due to the vast majority of beans being exported. There simply aren’t enough beans left to create a bustling cafe culture, resulting in much of the leftover coffee being consumed at home. When cups of coffee are made, further preferences make themselves known.

You might’ve heard about Finnish people drinking coffee with cheese or Brazilians mixing espresso shots with pure sugar. The Perfect Daily Grind explores the unique approach to coffee in Uganda, up to and including their preference for tea-like coffee over the more robust flavors Westerners enjoy. African coffee consumption, from what I’m seeing, is set to create some very interesting trends in the future. Now’s a great time to get caught up on what today’s leading producers are doing.

Want to make your latte or mocha taste better? I got some advice for you to get started.

Tips For Making A Great Latte Or Mocha

A skilled barista may look like they’re just dumping ingredients together, but that’s far from the case! …Mostly!

The latte and mocha are similar enough to the point where if you master one, you’ve already got the other in the bag. The mocha’s extra ingredient, though, can make it a little tricky. If you want to avoid that annoying clump of chocolate at the end of the drink, mix it into your espresso shots first. This was called ‘scraping the bottom’ back in my day. Add the milk and foam last to blend it all into the drink.

Delicious drinks should be as fresh as possible. That means pouring in your espresso shots as soon as they’re done. The longer they sit, the more they’ll lose their color and start to go stale. This means you’ll have to get used to timing your actions one after the other, which will come easier with practice. Make sure your set-up is ready to go before you even grind the coffee (that’ll save you some last-minute scrambling).

High-quality coffee beans obviously go a long way in the taste of your drink (and yes, you can still taste their unique flavors even with milk and sugar). Check out your local roasteries and give them a try.

Final Thoughts

The latte vs mocha are two things that are even better together.

As sure as the sun rises, I’ll be in the mood for one or the other. If I’m feeling like watching my calorie count, the latte takes precedence. When I don’t care one bit and want to indulge, the mocha is high on my list.

If you know someone who wants to learn more about the latte vs mocha, link them to this article. In the meantime: do you prefer the latte or the mocha?

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