How To Order Coffee in Singapore: Unveiling Local Coffee Jargon

When I was little, I used to trail behind my Dad on his weekend morning coffee runs. For so many years, his order has remained unchanged: a cup of kopi-o siew siew dai. Now, if you’re unfamiliar with Singapore, you probably have no clue what that means. That’s the thing about our coffee culture – it’s unique, with its own Singaporean lingo. So, as you stroll through the vibrant streets of Singapore, overwhelmed by the plethora of coffee choices, fret not. As someone who’s grown up immersed in the world of coffee, I’m here to be your guide through the fascinating lingo of how to order coffee in Singapore.

How To Order Coffee in Singapore

A Brief Introduction to Singaporean Coffee Culture

Did you know that Singaporean coffee or kopi, also known as Nanyang coffee, is a unique gem in itself? Made primarily with robusta beans roasted with butter and sugar, it packs a punch with its high caffeine content. Rich in flavour and wonderfully fragrant, kopi is what sets Singaporean coffee apart from the rest. From the classic kopitiams (coffee shops) to the sleek modern cafes that grace the cityscape, coffee aficionados in Singapore are truly spoilt for choice. Whether you’re craving the bold intensity of traditional kopi (local coffee) or the refreshing chill of kopi peng (iced coffee), Singapore offers a diverse array of options to satisfy every taste bud.

How To Order Coffee in Singapore

Understanding the Lingo: Decoding Singaporean Coffee Jargon

First things first, familiarise yourself with the local coffee jargon. Here are some key terms you’ll encounter when ordering coffee in Singapore:

  • Kopi = general term for coffee, also means coffee with sugar and condensed milk
  • Peng = iced
  • O = black (no milk)
  • Kosong = no sugar
  • Siew Dai = less sugar
  • Siew Siew Dai = very little sugar
  • Ga Dai = extra sweet
  • C = evaporated milk
  • Gao = strong, thick coffee
  • Po = weak, diluted coffee
  • Di Lo = extra strong coffee

Here’s how you can string up the above terms to order the coffee you want:

  • Kopi – Coffee with sugar and condensed milk
  • Kopi Peng – Iced coffee with sugar and condensed milk
  • Kopi O – Black coffee with sugar
  • Kopi O Peng – Iced black coffee with sugar
  • Kopi O Kosong – Black coffee without sugar
  • Kopi O Kosong Peng – Iced black coffee without sugar
  • Kopi O Siew Dai – Black coffee with less sugar
  • Kopi O Siew Dai Peng – Iced black coffee with less sugar
  • Kopi O Siew Siew Dai – Black coffee with very little sugar
  • Kopi C – Coffee with sugar and evaporated milk
  • Kopi C Peng – Iced coffee with sugar and evaporated milk
  • Kopi Gao – Strong coffee with sugar and condensed milk
  • Kopi Ga Dai – Coffee with extra sugar and condensed milk
  • Kopi Po – Diluted coffee with sugar and condensed milk
  • Kopi Di Lo – Extra strong coffee with sugar and condensed milk

This list is not exhaustive as it depends on your preferences, so you can customise it to suit your liking.

How To Order Coffee in Singapore

Navigating the Menu: Tips for Ordering Coffee Like a Local

  1. Be Confident: Don’t be afraid to speak up and place your order confidently. Singaporeans appreciate clarity and decisiveness.
  2. Specify Your Preferences: Whether you like your coffee strong, sweet, or with a dash of evaporated milk, don’t hesitate to specify your preferences. The more precise you are, the better your coffee will suit your taste.
  3. Observe and Learn: Take a moment to observe how locals order their coffee. Pay attention to the nuances in their requests and use them as a guide for your own order.
  4. Embrace the Local Flavours: Don’t shy away from trying something new. Singaporean coffee comes in a variety of flavours and styles, each offering a unique sensory experience.

How To Order Coffee in Singapore

Popular Coffee Hangouts in Singapore

Now that you’re equipped with the know-how, it’s time to explore some of the best coffee spots in Singapore. Here are a few recommendations to kickstart your coffee adventure:

  1. Ya Kun Kaya Toast: A beloved institution known for its traditional kopi and delicious kaya toast.
  2. Heap Seng Leong: Dive into nostalgia at this traditional kopitiam, serving up authentic local coffee and delectable breakfast sets.
  3. Chin Mee Chin Confectionery: Step back in time at this charming old-school kopitiam and savour their iconic kaya buns and aromatic kopi.
  4. Killiney Kopitiam: An iconic establishment cherished for its century-old tradition of serving authentic Hainanese kopi and delectable kaya toast.
  5. Toast Box: A ubiquitous presence across the island, it offers a convenient destination to savour freshly brewed kopi paired with a variety of local breakfast staples.
  6. YY Kafei Dian: Transport yourself to the bygone era of old-school Singapore here, where you can relish in rich kopi and traditional breakfast delights.
  7. Tong Ah Eating House: A heritage kopitiam in the bustling Outram Park area, it’s renowned for its strong and flavourful kopi served in classic porcelain cups.


In conclusion, ordering coffee in Singapore is more than just a transaction – it’s a cultural experience. By familiarising yourself with the local jargon, specifying your preferences, and embracing the diverse flavours on offer, you’ll navigate the coffee scene like a seasoned pro.

So, the next time you find yourself in Singapore, don’t hesitate to immerse yourself in the rich tapestry of coffee culture. Armed with your newfound knowledge, venture forth and savour the aromatic delights that await you in this vibrant city-state. Happy sipping!

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