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Mocha VS Latte: What’s The Difference?

If you’re not a seasoned coffee drinker, a mocha and a latte can look pretty similar at first glance. They both contain espresso, steamed milk, and usually, a dash of latte art to make them look cute!

However, they’re pretty different drinks when it comes to flavor. 

Using my knowledge as a former barista, I’ve put together a short guide explaining the difference. Here’s what to know about a mocha vs. latte so you can order like a pro on your next coffee shop run.

mocha vs latte

Summary Takeaways 

  • A latte consists of espresso, steamed milk, and milk foam.
  • A mocha adds chocolate, and sometimes whipped cream, to the latte base.
  • Both coffee drinks require an espresso machine and hot milk.

What Is in a Latte? 

I’ll admit it. When I first started drinking lattes, I thought all the different types of latte consisted of sugary sweet syrups. 

Yes, second-wave coffee shops embellish lattes with syrups and whipped cream. But traditionally, lattes are pretty plain coffee drinks.

The exact beginnings of the caffè latte are unclear. Some historians believe that Italians created lattes as a breakfast coffee. Others suspect that Italian baristas crafted lattes for Americans who preferred weaker coffees. 

(Heated milk adds a subtle sweet taste to any espresso drink.) 

Regardless of its origin, the latte consists of three parts:

  1. Espresso
  2. Steamed milk
  3. Foamed milk

A latte should contain roughly one part espresso to three parts steamed milk. Then, you’ll top that with a small layer of milk foam. 

In practice, this ratio translates to two shots of espresso (about 2 ounces in total) to about 8 ounces of milk. (The amount of milk foam varies.) 


Wait a second. How come at Starbucks you can get a caffe latte in 12 ounces, 16 ounces, and 20 ounces? 

The truth is lattes should only be one size, but most chain coffee shops sell lattes in many sizes. If you wanted to increase the latte size, you’d need to add more espresso to balance out the milk. 

Starbucks does add more coffee as you increase the cup size… But they also add hot milk, essentially negating the extra coffee. 

Take a look at the Starbucks espresso-to-milk ratio:

  • Tall (12 oz): one espresso shot (one ounce of espresso) to 11 ounces of milk
  • Grande (16 oz): two espresso shots (two ounces of espresso) to 14 ounces of milk
  • Venti (20 oz): two espresso shots (two ounces of espresso) to 18 ounces of milk

As you can see, Starbucks doesn’t increase the espresso in proportion to the milk. So the larger the latte, the milkier the drink. For a true latte taste, you would need to at least double the amount of coffee as you increase the drink size. 

(It’s not only Starbucks. I’ve seen many chain coffee shops shortchange their lattes.) 

If lattes are mostly milk, why are they so popular? Two words: latte art.

Latte art refers to the designs baristas make in your latte to make it look pretty. They do this by adjusting the flow of steamed milk as they pour it into the espresso in the cup. 

Usually, this is the finishing touch on a beverage and is a mark of a barista’s craft.

What Is in a Mocha?

Although similar drinks, lattes and mochas have pretty different origins. 

Historians believe the name first described coffee beans from Al Mokka in Yemen. The coffee beans shipped from this port had a natural chocolate taste.

Over time, traders brought these beans into Europe. And the word Mokka became synonymous with chocolate flavors.

Today, mocha coffee is a bit different. Rather than rely on beans with prominent chocolate notes, mochas contain actual chocolate. 

Like a regular latte, a mocha also contains espresso and steamed milk. Although a mocha essentially uses a latte as the base drink, the proportions for a mocha don’t need to be quite as exact. 

As a result, people have started to get pretty creative with how they make this coffee drink. 

To get the chocolate taste, you’ll find baristas who use any of the following: 

  • Cocoa powder
  • Hot chocolate mix
  • Semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • Chocolate syrup
  • Unsweetened chocolate powder.

I’d recommend using four tablespoons of chocolate per drink. (Adjust the amount of chocolate to your personal taste.) Add one ounce (one shot) of espresso and 8 ounces of milk to that, and you’re all set!

Some baristas stir the chocolate into the espresso and then add the milk. Others prefer to make the latte first and then stir in the chocolate. 

The order of assembly won’t change the taste. But it might change the drink’s final texture and appearance. 

Another thing to note about a mocha is that the decorations vary. My local coffee shop always adds art on top. Other shops will add whipped cream, chocolate drizzle, chocolate shavings, or a combination of these treats!


Spotlight: Starbucks Mocha

Starbucks has upped the options for mocha latte lovers. Seriously. The menu offers at least six mocha flavors

Unlike other coffee shops, Starbucks mochas contain ‘pumps’ of syrup. Each pump is about a fluid ounce of chocolate. Here’s how much mocha your drink contains:

Hot Drinks

  • Tall (12 ounces): 3 pumps of mocha syrup
  • Grande (16 ounces): 4 pumps of mocha syrup
  • Venti (20 ounces): 5 pumps of mocha syrup

Cold Drinks

  • Tall (12 ounces): 3 pumps of mocha syrup
  • Grande (16 ounces): 4 pumps of mocha syrup
  • Venti (24 ounces): 6 pumps of mocha syrup

Want a mocha that tastes more like a hot chocolate than a coffee drink? No problem. Just request extra pumps of chocolate syrup.

Wrapping Up: Mocha vs Latte 

So, what’s the difference between a mocha vs latte?

In short, the main difference is that mochas contain chocolate while lattes don’t. Otherwise, these drinks are pretty similar. 

Both contain espresso, steamed milk, and milk foam. And both have been around for quite a while. 

The taste differs thanks to the addition of chocolate in mochas. Mochas also tend to have a lot more pizazz added to them (such as whipped cream or chocolate shavings). 

So, which will it be? Will you be a traditionalist and stick to the plain latte? Or will you join the ranks of sweet tooths and opt for a mocha? Whichever you pick, I won’t judge.