“What do you mean Mocha? Mochaccino? Oh, you meant a Moka pot? No? A caffè Mocha. Yes that’s what I said the first time, Mochaccino!” If you’ve ever had this frustrating exchange either with a friend or even yourself, you are not alone. After all, to make matters worse, there is also Mocha, the city in Yemen. Let us see how they all fit together.
The Moka Pot
First let us explain the difference between Moka pot and a caffè Mocha. One does not make the other. A Moka pot is an Italian invention that you must have come across. It is usually shaped in the classic Bialetti style, with an octagonal base and top lid. It is used to make coffee through pressure, much like an espresso machine. However this is a stove top appliance, no machinery or electronics involved. The Moka pot uses a water chamber on the bottom to heat up water. The steam then creates the pressure to push the water upwards through the coffee grounds and out into the top chamber where the brew is collected.
The caffè Mocha, or Mochaccino and many other synonyms, on the other hand is a coffee drink made usually with espresso, hot milk, chocolate flavoring and sweetener. Sometimes this is in the form of cocoa powder and sugar but many times chocolate syrup or milk chocolate instead. Although you can make a caffè Mocha by brewing the coffee with a Moka pot, the relation isn’t there. The connection between these two words that are spelled differently but sound the same is the city of Mocha in Yemen or al-Makha in Arabic.
Both of these inventions take their name from this port city of Yemen, once the center of coffee trade. From the 15th century until the 18th century, the city was the major marketplace for coffee. Even after other sources of coffee were found, Mocha beans continued to be prized for their distinctive flavor—and remain so even today. So it is that the Moka pot was named in honor of the origins of coffee and a coffee drink was named after the legendary port of al-Makha.