White Mocha vs Mocha (What is the Difference?)


Coffee shops have really stepped up their coffee offerings in recent years. Gone are the days where all you had to worry about was ordering decaf or regular coffee. Coffee shops now offer a broad selection of espresso-based beverages that stray far from a simple black coffee.

If you’ve been to a local coffee shop recently, you may have seen a mocha and a white mocha on the menu. Many people wonder what the main differences are between these two espresso-based drinks. While both drinks are decadent and delicious, there are some key differences between a chocolate mocha, and a white chocolate mocha. First, let’s talk about what sets a mocha coffee apart from the rest: chocolate.

What is the Difference between White Chocolate and Regular Chocolate?

The major difference between a white mocha and regular mocha is the type of chocolate used. White mochas use white chocolate and regular mochas use milk or dark chocolate.

This may surprise you but there is actually a heavy debate about whether white chocolate is considered actual chocolate. This is due to how white chocolate is made in comparison to dark chocolate or milk chocolate. So let’s dive in and learn about these different types of chocolate and how they are made. 

White Chocolate, milk chocolate and dark chocolate all start with a cocoa bean. Similarly to coffee beans, cocoa beans grow in regions around the equator. Today, most cocoa beans that are consumed worldwide come from west Africa. Côte d’Ivoire is the largest producer of cocoa beans, producing 2200 metric tons from 2021-2022. The next major producers are Ghana, Ecuador and Camaroon. Together these four African countries produce 70% of the total global cocoa bean supply.

Tree branch with a cocoa bean hanging from the branch.

Cocoa beans come from a cacao tree and grow in large pods consisting of a inner thick pulp which surrounds a cluster of cocoa beans. Each cocoa pod measures about 8-14 inches long and contains anywhere from 20-60 cocoa beans.

Milk Chocolate and dark chocolate are made from both the cocoa butter and the cocoa solids. On the other hand white chocolate only uses the cocoa butter.

Is White Chocolate Actually Chocolate?

According to the FDA, white chocolate is considered a cacao product and must meet specific criteria in order to be called “white chocolate”. To summarize these requirements, white chocolate is a combination of cacao fat, dairy/milk products, and nutritive sweetener. A nutritive sweetener means it contains calories so aspartame or sucralose would not count. 

White chocolate must also must contain at least 20% cacao fat, 14% dairy, and no more than can 55% sweetener by weight. 

So as you can see, white chocolate is considered a type of chocolate by the FDA and has to meet strict criteria in order for it to be marketed as true white chocolate. 

Additionally, white chocolate comes from the cocoa bean so I find it hard to argue that it is not a type of chocolate. 

What is a Mocha?

A mocha begins with a shot of espresso. Steamed milk and chocolate sauce is then added to the drink. Different recipes will use different types of chocolate. Some craft coffee shops offer mochas made from solid chocolate (similar to a sipping chocolate). Other recipes will use cocoa powder, however most mochas you will find at coffee shops use a dark chocolate syrup.

blue-green mug containing a mocha. The mug is sitting on a napkin which is on a wooden cutting board. There is cocoa powder sprinkled on the napkin and cutting board.

Can Mochas be Iced?

Mochas can be made either hot or iced. Iced mochas are usually made by mixing the chocolate and espresso first, then adding the ice and cold milk. This allows the heat of the espresso to help melt and incorporate the chocolate sauce into the drink and prevents it from getting clumpy.

How are Mochas Made?

Mochas are espresso based coffee beverages made by combining steamed milk, espresso, and chocolate. 

To make the espresso, you will need an espresso machine to pull your desired amount of espresso shots. Most people drink one to three shots of espresso in their mochas. 

Next, you will add your chocolate sauce to your cup, then add the espresso, and then pour over your steamed milk to complete the mocha. While not a requirement for a mocha, whipped cream and a drizzle of regular chocolate or white chocolate syrup is often added to top off the drink. If you want to get really fancy, you can add some chocolate shavings to the top as well.

How to Make Espresso without an Espresso Machine

If you do not have an espresso machine, you can use a moka pot. These stove-top coffee makers make a coffee that is very similar to an espresso shot, although it is technically not true espresso. 

Moka pots have two main chambers stacked on top of one another. Between these two chambers is a basket that houses the ground coffee beans. The bottom chamber contains water that when heated over the stove will turn into steam. This steam gets forced upward through the coffee basket and into the upper chamber. 

This process produces a rich flavored coffee that is similar to espresso and can be used as an espresso substitute. 

What is a White Mocha?

White chocolate mochas are similar to regular mochas. The only difference is the type of chocolate sauce they use. White chocolate mochas are essentially a latte with white chocolate sauce added. Similarly, iced white mochas differ from regular mochas only in that they use white mocha sauce.

What do White Mochas Taste Like?

White mochas have a delightfully sweet yet subtle flavor. Unlike regular mochas, where the chocolate flavor is very obvious and more intense, a white mocha tastes much like a sweetened latte that has an added rich and creamy texture. I find that white chocolate mocha drinks allow the coffee flavor to stand out more than in a regular mocha. I find that the iced white mocha makes a great summer drink due to it’s milder flavor.

If you are new to drinking coffee, white mochas are a great way to get used to the flavor of coffee because the white chocolate mocha sauce does an excellent job at taming the bitterness many new coffee drinkers dislike about coffee. If you want an even milder coffee, ask your barista to use a shot of blonde espresso.

What are Some Variations of White Mochas?

If you’ve ever been to a Starbucks, especially around the holidays, you’ll know there are many variations of mochas. Some good variations you might try ordering are white peppermint mochas, and a toasted white chocolate mocha. If you or someone you know doesn’t like coffee, you can even order a white hot chocolate.

Are Mochas Vegan?

Regular mochas are usually not vegan but they can sometimes be made vegan. Ask your barista to use non-dairy milk. My favorite non-dairy milks to use in espresso drinks are oat milk and soy milk. Coconut milk and almond milk are also popular options. 

You will also need to check if the mocha sauce is dairy free. Regular mocha sauce is often dairy free but may contain milk.

More than likely, the white mocha sauce will contain dairy as that is a requirement for white chocolate to actually be called “white chocolate.” Starbucks white chocolate mocha is an example of a white mocha that contains milk (at the time of writing this post).

If you are making your own home-made chocolate mocha, you can find a recipe for a vegan chocolate sauce to use in your mocha. 

What is the Difference Between a Mocha and a Latte?

Mochas are very similar to the popular café latte and some even argue that a mocha is nothing more than a type of latte. A latte is a an coffee beverage made from combining a shot of espresso with steamed whole milk and a thin layer of milk foam on top. Lattes are often sweetened or flavored with syrups such as vanilla syrup or caramel sauce. Mochas are essentially lattes with chocolate added and therefore is a popular drink for those with a sweet tooth.


The next time you head to your favorite local coffee shop, consider ordering a white mocha. This creamy drink makes a delicious treat and will still give you that caffeine boost common to all coffee drinks.

If you enjoyed this post, you might also enjoy:

Is Blonde Espresso Stronger than Regular? A Coffee Roast Comparison

Ultimate Vegan Banana Chocolate Muffins

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