Mocha didn’t always mean coffee made with added chocolate. In fact, in the early days of the coffee trade, starting in the 1600s all the way up through the early 19th century, the area we now call Yemen was a primary player in the coffee industry. Yemen was the first country to cultivate coffee plants as agriculture, after spice traders acquired a love of the bittersweet brew from Ethiopia. Yemen’s main port is called Mocha (or Mokha), and coffees that left that port were called Mocha coffees.
Compared with the very floral and often very fruity flavors of African and Indonesian coffees at that time, Yemeni beans tended to have a more chocolate flavor, which offered a really nice balance that was said to create the perfect blend, especially when paired with coffees from Java. After a long and winding road all the way through history to the menus of coffee bars and shops in the Western world, “mocha” started to become a stand-in for a coffee made with chocolate, while “java” morphed into the term for just a regular ol’ cup of joe.
Mr. Coffee Cafe Barista Espresso and Cappuccino Maker, $155 on Amazon
Espresso machines can be quite expensive, but this more moderately priced one gets pretty high marks, so you can make great mochas at home.
Didn’t think you’d get an extra pump of history when you ordered this drink, did you? Well here’s the whipped cream on top: You don’t have to run to the ‘Buck to get a mocha—you can make your own at home.
We like a slightly thinner (but still very flavorful) liquid version that will blend easily into hot coffee or espresso. (Sometimes powders can be harder to incorporate, and who wants to do all that stirring?) The best part about having chocolate syrup at home is that no one will judge you when you add an extra squirt (or when you pour it directly into your mouth). Get the Homemade Mocha Syrup recipe.
Now that you have your own chocolate syrup, all you need to do is add it liberally to any coffee drink you make. If you don’t own an espresso machine at home, just make a stronger-than-usual coffee to use as a base. (Note that for most mocha-making, the chocolate is mixed with the coffee rather than the milk.) Get the Hot Mocha Latte recipe.
Who says you can’t have a milkshake for breakfast? Cold coffee, chocolate, and ice come together easily with a zap of the blender to make a caffeinated treat. Get the Frozen Mocha recipe.
Don’t be afraid to experiment. Peppermint and chocolate make a favorite seasonal combination that’s super easy to whip up. Get the Homemade Peppermint Mocha recipe.
This heavenly brew is punched up with spices. Aromatic cinnamon and a pinch of ground cayenne pepper lend a much appreciated kick. Get the Mexican Mocha recipe.
Look, what happens in your coffee stays in your coffee. One surefire way to improve a mocha is to add some nog and a generous nip—and we could all probably use just that after this long freaking year, right? Get the Eggnog Espresso Spiked Mocha recipe.
Since great mochas start with great coffee, check out our guide to The Best Coffee Subscriptions.
Related Video: How to Make Holiday Mocha Fudge
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