Kopi, Did you mean Coffee? Guide to ordering Coffee in Singapore.

Singapore has a very unique food culture. There are such a variety of dishes to try, with almost every seller having their own signature dishes. No establishment embodies this part of Singapore's culture as much as the good old kopitiam (Food courts). In fact, the name itself is a mixture of Malay (“kopi” meaning coffee) and Hokkien Chinese (“tiam” meaning shop) While Kopitiams serve delicious food for any time of day.  It’s a must-have experience to regularly check-in for some delicious and cheap food. However, it can be intimidating if you’re not using local language to order food!

When it comes to ordering coffee like a local, it could feel like there is a whole new dialect to learn. However, getting to know these terms,  can eliminate a lot of confusion. It’s also pretty convenient once you’re used to it.

In this guide, we’ll give you the meaning of few common dishes and how to order it! Ok, let’s take ordering Coffee or Tea in a local food court.

Yakun Kaya - image

Here is a quick-fire guide to making sure you order your kopi just the way you like it:

  • Kopi: Counterintuitively for westerners, plain kopi comes with condensed milk.
  • Kopi Peng: “Peng” is Hokkien for ice, so Kopi Peng is iced coffee with condensed milk.
  • Kopi-O: Pronounced “o”, not zero, this is plain black coffee with normal sweetness
  • Kopi-O Siew Dai: “Siew Dai” is Cantonese for “less sweet”, for just a hint of sweetness.
  • Kopi-Kosong: Literally translating as “coffee empty”, this means unsweetened black coffee without condensed milk
  • Kopi Gah Dai: The opposite of “Siew Dai” with added condensed milk for more sweetness
  • Kopi-C: C stands for Carnation evaporated milk with added sugar.
  • Kopi Gau: Literally “coffee thick” this is a stronger coffee with added condensed milk for a thicker texture

We left it out here for brevity, but you can add “Peng” to pretty much anything for the iced version. The same goes for “gah dai” or “siew dai”. You can also replace “Peng” with “ice”, although you’ll miss out on impressing the drinks lady.

You can also say “ta bao” (pronounced “tapau”) which means takeaway. For instance, if you say “kopi peng tapau” you’re asking for iced coffee take away. Don’t be surprised if it comes in a tied plastic bag with a straw! These guys know their stuff and it won’t drop.

Lastly, most of these terms work the same way for tea. Just substitute the “kopi” for “teh” and you’re good to go. For a local twist, ask for “Yuenyeung” (often transliterated according to the Cantonese language pronunciation Yuenyeung, Yinyeung, or Yinyong), yuanyang (in Mandarin)which is a mixture of tea and coffee with condensed milk.

You probably can’t wait to try out your new ordering skills! That’s great because eating out at a local coffee shop is a fantastic way to immerse yourself in Singaporean culture.

The way to Singapore’s heart is through its food courts.

Ordering the local way will also definitely earn you a few smiles and will make it a much smoother experience.

If you want to jump straight into it, you can find some must try coffee outlets from this list by Daniel Food Diary.

Image Credits: Kopitiam