Starbucks Plays Fast And Loose With Its 'Mocha' Drinks

What’s the difference between mocha and chocolate, anyway?

When you order a Starbucks Mocha Frappuccino, you get a drink that contains the following four elements: Starbucks-brand "mocha sauce," Frappuccino® Roast coffee, milk, and ice. Now, however, according to a press release sent to The Takeout, there's a similar offering to satisfy your sweet tooth: the Chocolate Cream Cold Brew. This new drink contains cold brew coffee topped with a chocolate cream cold-foam and sweetened with vanilla syrup.

Why not call this a "mocha cold brew," when every other chocolatey offering on the menu uses that term? I always assumed that any combination of chocolate and coffee would qualify as a "mocha," but in my examination of the Starbucks menu I've discovered two things. First, I have no idea what the actual definition of a mocha is, and second, apparently Starbucks doesn't either.

What is a mocha?

The term mocha originates from Yemen. Nespresso's website explains that Al Mokha, a port city on Yemen's southwestern coast, was one of the first locations to export coffee beans internationally. The aromatic beans that came from this port city were known for their "rich taste of cacao," which is why people then began to bundle the concepts of coffee, chocolate, and mocha together.


So, at the most basic level, a mocha drink must contain some form of milk, espresso, and chocolate in order for it to be classified as a true mocha. That is what mocha refers to: the milk/espresso/chocolate combo. Got it? Okay.

Where Starbucks gets “mocha” wrong 

Starbucks has a number of mocha drinks, including Caffe Mocha, Mocha Frappuccino Blended Beverage, and Mocha Cookie Crumble Frappuccino Blended Beverage. Mocha Sauce and Mocha Drizzle can also be added to most customized beverages.


The Takeout reached out to get details on what exactly is in the Mocha Sauce and Mocha Drizzle. This is the answer we got from a Starbucks rep:

Ingredients for Starbucks Mocha Sauce and Mocha Drizzle are as follows: water, sugar, cocoa processed with alkali, natural flavor.

Beverages that include the sauce and/or drizzle include the Caffe Mocha, Mocha Frappuccino Blended Beverage, Mocha Cookie Crumble Frappuccino Blended Beverage, and Java Chip Frappuccino Blended Beverage.

Based on the aforementioned definition of what makes a mocha a mocha, there are a couple Starbucks drinks that do not fully live up to the label. For example, the Mocha Frappuccino Blended Beverage does not contain espresso. The same goes for the Cookie Crumble. The lack of espresso in these drinks makes them more like a chocolate coffee drink and not worthy of the traditional mocha label.


What's even more confusing is that Starbucks also offers Iced Chocolate Almondmilk Shaken Espresso. The shaken espresso has all the necessary ingredients to earn the label of a mocha drink, and yet that's not what it's called.

Starbucks is, of course, free to label its drinks however it wants, but misnomers like this might be part of the reason serious coffee drinkers often look down on Starbucks.