Where Did Mocha Coffee Actually Come From?

If you ask Starbucks, a caffè mocha is an espresso drink mixed with mocha sauce and steamed milk, with a dollop of whipped cream on top. And although there are various definitions of a mocha out there, the classic one is pretty similar to Starbucks'. A classic mocha is made with chocolate, espresso, and milk. If you've ever sipped on one of these warm, sweet beverages, you know that it gives you the taste of hot chocolate, but the caffeine buzz of coffee — aka the best of both worlds.

So who first came up with the genius idea to put coffee and chocolate together in a hot, cozy beverage? The modern-day word "mocha" comes from "moka beans," which were beloved as early as the 17th century for their chocolatey flavor. However, we now call those Arabica coffee beans, and the word mocha is now used to refer to the aforementioned chocolatey drink. So how did we get here, and where exactly did these beans originate?

The mocha originally came from Yemen

Moka beans originally came from Yemen in the 17th century, specifically, from the port city Al Moka. Although the beans were cultivated in nearby regions, they were sent to Al Moka to be shipped to all different parts of the world. The beans stood out because of their chocolatey flavor, but also because of their yellow and green appearance. They became widely sought after in Europe, and during that time, the word "mocha" became synonymous with coffee.

Although the chocolate-flavored beans originated in Yemen, the modern-day mocha as we know it may have been developed in Italy though it still wasn't called a mocha yet. Caffè Al Bicerin, which still exists in northern Italy, is credited with making the first bavareisa, later known as the bicerin. Two versions of the drink were made with coffee and chocolate, which caught on in other coffee shops in the city as well. Since moka beans were extremely popular in Europe, they may have been used in some of these popular Italian concoctions.

However, all the ingredients in the Italian bicerins were served separately, so that customers could combine them on their own to make the drink. Eventually, the drink made its way to the United States, where it was renamed the "mocha" or "mochaccino" and served as a mixed drink. And while the word today is simply associated with the pairing of coffee and chocolate, we have Yemen to thank for the original chocolate-flavored moka beans.