How to Order Local Coffee and Tea Like a Pro in Singapore

Coffee and tea, or kopi and teh, are pretty much part of my daily must-haves. There’s no denying that a comforting hot cuppa lifts moods and brings the zen mode on. While we try to order local coffee and tea like a pro, there are some interesting concoctions we’ve yet to sip!

Hubby and I love AND need our caffeine; that also translates to at least 1-2 cups a day. On weekends, the kids look forward to a snack break. So, that usually means hopping to our local Kopi outlets like Ya Kun Kaya Toast, Toast Box, Killiney Kopitiam, Fun Toast or Heavenly Wang / Wang Cafe so the kids can bite into roti (bread), soft boiled eggs. Kid-friendly drinks for them would be hot honey lemon or ice/hot Milo. With social distancing measures in place and limited seating capacity these days, we usually just order takeaway for the drinks and food.

If you’re new to appreciating these black and brown liquids, here’s a quick guide so you can order traditional coffee and tea like a local in Singapore. It’s a mish mash of Hokkien and Malay with Singlish lesson included!

Guide to order local coffee and tea like a pro in Singapore

Tips and tricks to kopi and teh lingo when ordering them at the hawker centre, kopitiam, food court or coffee stalls in Singapore!

First thing first, know your ‘C’ and ‘O’. These letters make a HUGE difference in how your cup of caffeine turns out. Yes, both letters apply whether you’re getting coffee or tea.

  • C‘ = sugar and evaporated milk added to kopi/teh. e.g. Kopi C, Teh C.
  • O‘ = coffee/tea with sugar and no milk. e.g. Kopi O, Teh O.

Next, decide if you want added sugar or not. By default, sugar is added.

  • Kosong = no sugar e.g. Kopi O Kosong.
  • Siu Dai = less sugar e.g. Teh C Siu Dai.

Lastly, the caffeine strength is also an option. Do you want it stronger or weaker?

  • Poh = weaker e.g. Teh Siu Dai Poh
  • Gao = stronger e.g. Kopi Gao

Oh yes, the default is a hot drink. Therefore, if you want an iced cold coffee or tea, say “peng” at the end. e.g. Kopi C Gao Peng. HAHA. Perfect for a sweltering day and when you need that extra strong shot too!

By the way, it does sound like we’re ordering bubble tea with the options to choose our sugar level, but it really isn’t that complicated. Read on to find out how to order local coffee and tea like a pro, even if you’re not one! :P

Wake up to freshly brewed kopi/teh in Singapore, or have it at kopi o’clock!

Local coffee is also referred to as Nanyang coffee. But, what is kopi made of? What type of coffee beans are used to make coffee in the kopitiam?

Well, the answer from Visit Singapore is “Local kopi is made from Robusta coffee beans that are roasted with sugar and margarine under high heat to caramelise the beans and pronounce its flavours. The ground coffee is then mixed with hot water and strained in a flannel sock filter. A wallet-friendly caffeine fix, kopi is so strongly engrained in Singaporean food culture that we have our own unique concoctions and terminology for ordering its variants.”

Kopi / Teh

This is the default coffee/tea option with condensed milk and sugar.

Kopi C / Teh C

A cup of hot coffee/tea with evaporated milk and sugar.

Kopi O / Teh O

That’s black coffee/tea (without milk) with sugar. Somewhat like the Americano with sugar? As black as the night can be!

Kopi O Kosong / Teh O Kosong

A cup of black coffee / tea (without milk) and no sugar. Another black option but with nothing else – like a Long Black without sugar.

Kopi Gao (if you want it strong)

This means hot coffee with condensed milk and sugar, and extra coffee powder.

Kopi Po (if you prefer it weak)

That’s a cup of hot coffee with condensed milk and sugar, and less coffee powder. I don’t think I’ll want it weaker haha.

Kopi Di Lo (if you want it extra strong)

Who’s ordering hot coffee, extra thick with no water? This sounds POTENT! Those with heart palpitations should avoid it…

Kopi Siew Dai / Teh Siew Dai (if you want your cuppa less sweet)

A healthier choice option – hot coffee with reduced sugar.

Kopi Gah Dai (if you prefer it extra sweet)

For those who love it super sweet – coffee with condensed milk and more sugar. Do you like it? I haven’t tried this one.

Kopi Gu You (if you are adventurous and like it salty!)

A hot coffee with some butter swirling in it. Okay, I haven’t tried this one! Or, maybe I have… at Chin Mee Chin Confectionary along East Coast Road!

More Teh options for you to sip and order tea like a boss!

For those who don’t fancy coffee as much, or just want to enjoy the earthy or smokey characteristics of tea, teh awaits you! You don’t need to be some tea connoisseur to appreciate our local tea options. Wonder what tea leaves are used to brew your favourite teh? It’s the strong bodied black tea leaves!

Now, learn these names and order away!

Teh Tarik

A common drink option available at the Indian or Malay food stalls. ‘Tarik’ means ‘pull’ in Malay. Time to try some pulled hot tea, with condensed milk and sugar. My favourite choice with Biryani and Prata!

Teh O Tarik

Similar to Teh O, which is tea without milk. This is pulled hot tea, with sugar only.

Teh Halia

A slightly spicy choice as ‘halia’ means ‘ginger’. This is a cup of pulled hot tea, with condensed milk, sugar and ginger.

WOW! Didn’t realised we’re such coffee addicts until I started hunting for photos. Juggling parenting, work and other adulting responsibilities is no walk in the park! HAHA. From a breastfeeding mum to the next: if your babies are sensitive to caffeine, you might want to go easy on your kopi and teh intake.

Can you order local coffee and tea like a pro? What’s your favourite local drink? Do share them in the comments below too!

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    1. Wow, that’s an interesting coffee order! I’ve never tried that before.
      Hmmm, would that be Kopi C Kosong, C Gao? ‘C’ refers to the evaporated milk, ‘gao’ means more. Or it could be ‘Gu Ni’ gao, where ‘Gu Ni’ refers to the milk. HAHA!
      Have you managed to order it before? I’d like to know and learn that too!

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