Mocha or Mokha (Arabic: المخا [al-Mukhā]) is a port city on the Red Sea coast of Yemen. Until it was eclipsed in the 19th century by Aden and Hodeida, Mocha was the principal port for Yemen's capital Sana'a.
Mocha is famous for being the major marketplace for coffee from the 15th century until the 17th century. Even after other sources of coffee were found, Mocha beans (also called Sanani or Mocha Sanani beans, meaning from Sana'a) continued to be prized for their relatively chocolaty flavor—and remain so even today. From this coffee the English language gained the word mocha, for such combinations of chocolate and coffee flavors as cafe mocha.
According to the Jesuit and traveler Jeronimo Lobo, who sailed the Red Sea in 1625, Mocha was "formerly of limited reputation and trade" but since "the Turkish assumption of power throughout Arabia, it has become the major city of the territory under Turkish domination, even though it is not the Pasha's place of residence, which is two days' journey inland in the city of Sana'a." Lobo adds that its importance as a port was also due to the Ottoman law that required all ships entering the Red Sea to put in at Mocha and pay duty on their cargoes.
It is commonly believed that the coffee bean that originated in the port city of Mocha was encountered by Marco Polo on his trip through the Arab World. After the month and a half of Polo's turbulent journey, his party were forced to go ashore at Ṣūr (modern-day Tyre, Lebanon) to resupply their stocks, because the captain, William Maurice, had provided insufficient room for food storage. In the marketplace there, Polo found a Yemenite salesman who had brought coffee beans from Mocha, purchased some and ultimately returned with them (among many other imports) to Europe. However, the bean was not widely known through Europe until the 17th century.
In 1595 Spanish Jesuit missionary Pedro Páez was the first European to taste Mocha's coffee in place.
The term "mocha" in relation to chocolate and coffee–chocolate blends is strictly as a result of European influence. Chocolate is not cultivated at Mocha nor imported into it.