editted 2 IMG_3429


Quick now. What is mocha? Or moka? Or mokka? Or Mocca? Or Mocha?

In a land of coffee shops, no, in a land of Starbucks, we all know that a mocha is coffee plus chocolate.

It was not always so. The word mocha comes to us from the port city of Mocha on the Red Sea on the Western coast of Yemen. In the 15th through the 17th centuries, Arab traders dominated the coffee space and Mocha was the key originating port. The local variety of coffee was named Mocha and, even through modern times, “mocha” has been synonymous for “coffee,” just like the word “java.”

The thought of combining chocolate and coffee began in Turin, Italy where the beverage is still called Bicerin or “little glass.” There, coffee, milk, cream, and chocolate were married in a combination that continues to be served on the sidewalks of that city — and many others. In a classic Bicerin, the chocolate, coffee, and cream are carefully placed into a glass in distinct layers.

There are variations and the Moretto below is one of them. The milk is replaced by water. Chocolate and espresso are mixed instead of layered. The cream is still layered atop. The result? This beverage tastes like … Like nothing I’ve ever had. I’m very used to milk and the texture it creates in your mouth and on your tongue. Here, the chocolate is melted in boiling water so the resulting drink is “thin” at least to my palette. That’s automatically neither good nor bad. It is quite distinctive. I have to say the Moretto tasted like nothing I have ever had before. And, with no milk to add flavor, here you are confronted solely with bittersweet chocolate and espresso. You’ll find a swirl of flavors rocketing around your mouth and you are going to pucker.

This recipe is from Michael Turback’s Mocha. You may recognize the name because I’ve blogged several times about his first book Hot Chocolate. Turns out, Michael — a restaurateur from Ithaca — has crafted both Mocha and Coffee Drinks. These are both excellent books to sample, literally, and you’ll see other ideas from them here from time to time.


Yield: serves 1


  • 2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, fine shaved
  • 4 tablespoons boiling water
  • 3 ounces espresso
  • Whipped cream, lightly sweetened with powdered sugar
  • Cocoa powder [optional]


In a small bowl, combine the chocolate shavings with the boiling water and stir into a smooth liquid. Pour into a glass or cup. Add the espresso and stir until combined.

If you have not yet whipped your cream, do so, creaming to the point where the cream is thick but not yet holding peaks. Sweetened lightly. Top the beverage with whipped cream by spooning the cream over the top.

If you wish, dust with cocoa powder.

Source: Mocha by Michael Turback [published by Ten Speed Press]