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Whether you’re trying to prove your friend wrong over what the difference between macchiato and mocha is, or you’re trying to figure out what to order on your next trip to the coffee shop, you’re in the right place.

The truth of the matter is, these two drinks are quite different – their similarity mainly lies in the fact that they’re both espresso-based beverages. However, because their names sound slightly similar, people sometimes confuse them.

So let’s find out what a macchiato is and what a mocha is, so you’ll decide which one is more to your taste.

What Is a Macchiato?

The original Italian macchiato, also known as espresso macchiato, is basically an espresso shot with a spot of foam, or frothed milk, on top. In fact, macchiato in Italian means stained or spotted – which is exactly what this drink is – a spotted shot of espresso. The initial conception of macchiato was to highlight the bold, full-bodied flavor of the espresso shot with a spot of creamy milk froth. Alternatively, a macchiato can be stained with a splash of steamed milk and then completed with a dab of foam.

However, as the macchiato traveled to the United States and other countries worldwide, the way the drink was made started to change. In a lot of American coffee shops, for instance, a macchiato is closer to a latte in that more steamed milk is added. In this version, the milk is the star or the show rather than the espresso. To make an American macchiato, a full amount of milk is steamed and poured into a mug, and then the espresso shot is slowly added into the milk, diffusing it and creating layers as it goes.

In some other European countries a macchiato is prepared like a cappuccino with one part hot water, one part steamed milk with froth on top.

So, what about the taste? The versions of macchiato which are truer to the original and don’t use too much milk, really help accentuate the bold taste of the espresso shot. Of course, this may be too intense for people that prefer milky drinks. You can always try to recreate an original macchiato in your home with a high-quality, affordable milk frother.

What Is a Mocha?

The name mocha doesn’t come from the Italian espresso tradition, nor does it come from the Italian language. Rather, it comes from the Mocha (or Mokha) region in Yemen that’s famous for producing one of the most delicious, flavorful coffee beans in the world. Historically, also, Mocha was a key part of the global coffee trade for centuries. After all, the tradition of coffee drinking that we know today emerged from the Middle East. The first known coffee consumers were the Sufis, a Muslim mystic sect, from the region of present-day Yemen.

In any case, it’s not quite clear how this espresso-based beverage was named mocha, as there’s little relation to what the drink has come to mean. At best, we could draw a parallel between the natural chocolatey flavor of the Mocha bean and chocolate being the key ingredient – next to coffee – in the mocha that’s offered in coffee shops today.

So – what’s a mocha? A mocha unites the two beautiful, complementary tastes of coffee and chocolate, creating a coffee drink that’s ideal for chocolate lovers.

Mochas are made by adding chocolate sauce to an espresso shot and then adding a full amount of steamed milk. Some coffee shops also add foam, whipped cream, and chocolate shavings.

This mocha is made with espresso, chocolate syrup, milk, and chocolate shavings!

So, while a macchiato is much less sweet, and only uses milk to help the espresso flavor pop, a mocha is quite sweet thanks to the chocolate syrup. Plus, it uses a lot more milk than a traditional macchiato, which means that espresso comes second or third in the story. In a nutshell, a mocha is a favorite among people who like espresso, but need some strong backup to diffuse its boldness. Places like Starbucks like to take it a step further into non-coffiness, by offering additional syrup options like peppermint, salted caramel, vanilla, nutmeg, and so on.

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