Ordering coffee in Singapore

SINGAPORE—While every nation has its own unique caffeine scene, no one does coffee quite like Singapore. The tradition of kopitiam or coffee-shop culture is both an excellent example of the blend of Eastern and Western cultures in this melting-pot region of South East Asia and a taste sensation that’s worth writing home about.

Singaporeans order their coffee or kopi from the same person every morning at “hawker stalls,” community food courts in neighbourhood food markets. Kopi means coffee in Malay. Traditionally mom and pop businesses, these kopi stalls are everywhere, in hundreds of hawker centres throughout the city, operating from early morning until suppertime, just like the food markets themselves. Your kopi guy may not know your name, but he knows what you’re having and will start making your coffee the minute he sees you—which you take to-go in a plastic bag with a straw, for about $1.25. Yes, everybody walks into their offices with a plastic bag of coffee. And usually, a breakfast bite of some kind, often toast—Singapore is obsessed with toast.


When it comes to how you take your coffee, the ordering process is a model of efficiency. Unlike Western coffee names, which can get quite long depending on how complicated your coffee ritual, Singaporeans order their coffees by specific names. And here you go:

Kopi = coffee with sweetened condensed milk
Kopi O = coffee with sugar but no milk
Kopi Kosong = coffee with no milk or sugar
Kopi C = coffee with evaporated milk and sugar, most similar to our regular coffee order
Kopi Peng = iced coffee with condensed milk
Kopi Siew Dai = coffee with less condensed milk
Kopi Ga Dai = coffee with extra condensed milk
Kopi O Peng = iced coffee with sugar
Kopi Gu You = coffee with condensed milk, sugar and butter