Expat life in Singapore: How to order coffee and tea like a local

How to order kopi like a local Honeykids Asia Singapore
Whether you’re a new expat in Singapore or a Lion City veteran, ordering your local coffee or tea at a kopitiam is a necessary skill

International Coffee Day is coming up, so we thought we’d brush up on our local coffee ordering skills. Picking up a kopi or teh is an opportune time to embrace Singlish, killing two birds with one stone (but hey, if all you can manage is to procure a hot or iced drink from the local kopitiam, that’s okay too). And, if you’re looking for more reasons to embrace tasty local beverages, think about the money saving opportunities. While we love a latte any day from our local kid-friendly cafes (and a babyccino for the little people, if we’re feeling brave), a daily purchase burns a gaping hole in our pockets in no time. So, grab a cuppa and sip your way through our little guide to ordering your coffee and tea like a pro.


This is the go-to drink for most: standard hot coffee with condensed milk.

Kopi C
Hot coffee with evaporated milk and sugar.

Kopi O
Black coffee (without milk) with sugar.

Kopi O Kosong
Black coffee (without milk) without sugar.

Kopi Siew Dai (if you like it less sweet)
Hot coffee with reduced sugar.

Kopi Gah Dai (if you like it sweet)
Hot coffee with condensed milk and more sugar.

Kopi Gao (if you like it strong)
Hot coffee with condensed milk and sugar, and more coffee powder.

Kopi Po (if you like it weak)
Hot coffee with condensed milk and sugar, and less coffee powder.

Kopi Di Lo (if you like it really strong)
Hot coffee, extra thick with no water.

Kopi Gu You (if you like it salty)
Hot coffee with a bit of butter inside. Don’t knock it till you’ve tried it!

Kopi Peng
Iced coffee, with condensed milk.


Hot tea, with condensed milk and sugar.

Teh C
Hot tea, with evaporated milk and sugar.

Teh O
Hot tea (without milk) with sugar.

Teh O Kosong
Hot tea without milk or sugar.

Teh Siew Dai
Hot tea with reduced sugar.

Teh Tarik
Pulled hot tea, with condensed milk and sugar. Usually served at Indian or Malay stalls.

Teh O Tarik
Pulled hot tea, with only sugar.

Teh Halia
Pulled hot tea, with condensed milk, sugar and ginger. Great for digestion.

For the more adventurous, use these common terms to create your fully customised drink order…

O: Without milk. Great for the lactose intolerant.
C: With evaporated milk (less sweet), instead of condensed milk.
Kosong: Without sugar.
Siew Dai: Reduced sweetness, less sugar.
Ka Dai: Added sweetness, more sugar and/or milk.
Gau: More coffee powder, works like an extra shot of espresso.
Po: Less coffee powder, for a weaker brew.
Peng: Add ice to make it a refreshingly cool beverage.
Sua: Two orders of the same.

How about some orders for the kids to spice up their Milo?

Milo Kosong: Without milk and sugar.
Milo Dinosaur: With ice, condensed milk and sugar, sprinkled with Milo powder.
Milo Godzilla: With ice, condensed milk and sugar, a scoop of ice cream plus toppings.

Like this story? Here’s more we think you’ll enjoy!
Singapore’s best kid-friendly cafés and restaurants
10 Singapore foods we miss when we go overseas
Local snacks for kids
Restaurants where kids eat free
30 must-try kid-friendly local dishes