The Basic Guide to Ordering Kopitiam Drinks

When it comes to ordering drinks from a kopitiam – literally “coffee shop” in local speak – it’s all about using the right lingo. Most of the drink choices are a mixture of Chinese dialects and Malay rather than Mandarin and English. Basically, kopitiam drinks circle around each individual’s preference of milk, tea/coffee concentration, and sugar level. Once you have grasped these basic terms, you’ll be on your way to ordering kopitiam drinks like a pro. Use this guide to enjoy your drink just the way you like it!


Generally, all these terms can be mixed up when used. You can also use English, but why not try ordering “kopi c gao siew dai peng dabao” instead of “strong iced coffee made with evaporated milk instead of condensed milk with less sugar, take away please”? We’ll be using coffee as an example, but you can also order tea. Just replace “kopi” with “teh” and there you have it, your perfect cup of tea!

Step 1:
Do you want milk?
No milk: Kopi O 
With condensed milk: Kopi 
With evaporated milk: Kopi C 
(C stands for Carnation – a brand of evaporated milk)
Step 2:
Do you prefer your coffee stronger or weaker?
Stronger: Gau 
Weaker: Poh 
Step 3:
How much sugar do you want in your coffee?
More Sugar: Gah Dai 
Less Sugar: Siew Dai 
No Sugar: Kosong 
(Kosong means zero in Malay)
Step 4:
Any extra requests? Just add these words at the end.

Takeaway: Dabao 
Iced:  Peng 

 You can pretty much customise your drink in any way you want, so have fun playing around with the words! Here are some common orders:

Kopi (Coffee with condensed milk) Kopi Gah Dai (Extra sweet coffee with condensed milk)
Kopi O (Black coffee with sugar) Kopi Kosong (Coffee with condensed milk but no sugar)
Kopi Gau (Strong coffee with condensed milk) Kopi C Kosong (Coffee with evaporated milk and no sugar)
Teh C (Tea with evaporated milk and sugar)           Teh O Siew Dai (Tea with less sugar)
Teh O Gau (Stronger tea concentration) Teh O Poh (Weaker tea concentration with sugar)
Teh Peng (Iced tea with condensed milk) Teh C Peng Dapao (Iced tea with evaporated milk and sugar, takeaway)

Now, you’re ready to have fun ordering drinks, Singapore style. Enjoy! 


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