This Is Where The Term Mocha Originally Came From

When most people order a mocha at a café, they might expect a drink of hot espresso mixed with thick chocolate — chocolate syrup, chocolate powder, or melted pieces of chocolate — along with steamed milk and topped with milk foam or whipped cream.

But, this caffeinated beverage that mixes two things that humans seem to love most, aka coffee and chocolate, "mocha" wasn't always the term used to describe this rich drink. In fact, mocha originally had nothing to do with chocolate at all. Per Culinary Lore, between the 15th and 18th centuries, mocha was a name given to a variety of coffee beans that were grown and exported to Europe from the port of Mocha (Al Mokha) in Yemen. Named after the port that made these coffee beans accessible to the rest of the world, mocha in fact used to be what we now know as the immensely popular Arabica coffee beans!

In the 1700s, these coffee beans were so popular that the term "mocha" was synonymous with coffee itself. Somewhere along the way, the beans made their way to Italy, chocolate got added into the mix, and the mocha that we love and drink today was created.

The mocha originally came to America through Italy

According to Chowhound, while coffee grown in Africa and Indonesia at the time was known for its floral and fruity notes, the mocha coffee beans from Yemen had a distinct chocolate-like flavor.

As Yemen's coffee beans made their way into Europe and Italy through trade channels, along with the rising popularity of chocolate in the European continent at the time, cafés in Venice and Turin, Italy were the first to notice the chocolatey flavor of the mocha beans and thought to pair them with real chocolate (via Per Culinary Lore).

As the story goes, first there was a coffee drink called bavaresia that became popular in Turin (via Sprudge). Bavaresia was served to patrons as chocolate, coffee, and cream in different glasses, and they could then mix the three elements themselves to suit their taste. Says Sprudge, Bavaresia soon became the inspiration of a coffee bar by the name of Caffè al Bicerin in Italy who popularized the chocolate-coffee drink and renamed it as bicerin, a prepared drink of coffee, chocolate, and milk.

The chocolate-coffee drink quickly became a sensation across Europe and America, and the mocha latte, or mocha, that we know today as a concoction of milk, coffee, and chocolate came to be. And now, it even takes on different forms with additional flavorings like the popular Peppermint Mocha.