How To Order Kopi (Coffee) In Singapore Like a Local

Kopi - Coffee Singapore

While ordering coffee might seem simple, tourists often struggle on how to order kopi due to its complex colloquial terms and lingo. In Singapore, our kopi culture is a vibrant and integral part of the country’s social fabric. “Kopi” is the Malay word for coffee, and the local coffee culture has a unique and distinct character rooted in history.  


Traditional coffee in Singapore is often brewed using a sock-like cloth filter. The coffee is brewed by straining hot water through a mixture of finely ground coffee beans and sugar.  If you are at a hawker center in Singapore and found yourself wondering what kopi-o-siew dai or teh peng da bao mean, don’t worry—we have it simplified for you.  


Ordering coffee or kopi at a hawker center in Singapore uses a different set of language than your standard café or Starbucks— it is an art form involving several colloquial terms being pieced together to form a specific coffee order.


This unique lingo is mainly used in Singaporean kopitiams (or traditional coffee shops), and forms a unique part of Singapore’s hawker culture. If you are unsure about all the different kopi terms and what they mean, here is a local guide on how to order kopi in Singapore! 


Common Kopitiam Terminology


Common Terms 














Black coffee with no milk 




Evaporated milk instead of condense milk 




No sugar 


Siew Dai 


Less sugar 


Gah Dai 


More sugar 




Stronger coffee/less water 




Weaker coffee/more water 


Di Lo 


Extra thick/no water 




With ice 


Yuan yang 


Coffee & Tea Mix 




Pulled coffee. Refers to the action of continuously pouring hot coffee ortea between two cups, “pulling” it between cups to create a frothy top. This action cools down the beverage down to drinking temperature 

Now that we’ve got the basic terminology out of the way, it’s time to get down to business! The coffee-ordering method is in fact not as complex as it seems; to create your coffee orders, simply add two or three terms together.  

For example, if you would like a Black coffee with less sugar, simply add ‘Siew Dai’ behind ‘Kopi’ to form your order: ‘Kopi Siew Dai’. If you would like to order extra black coffee with evaporated milk and no sugar, simply add ‘Kopi-C’, ‘Kosong’ and ‘Gau’ together (Kopi-C Kosong Gau) to form your order, and the list continues! The more specific the order, the more terms are added. We challenge you to see how complicated your coffee can get!  


Now you know the logic, here are some examples of the common kopi orders in Singapore to get you started:



Common coffee orders 






Black coffee with condensed milk and sugar 


Kopi Kosong 


Black coffee with condensed milk (no sugar) 


Kopi Siew Dai 


Black coffee with condensed milk and less sugar 


Kopi Gah Dai 


Black coffee with condensed milk and more sugar 


Kopi Gau 


Extra black coffee with condensed milk and sugar 


Kopi Po 


Weaker black coffee with condensed milk and sugar 


Kopi Peng 


Iced black coffee with condensed milk and sugar 


Kopi Tarik 


Pulled black coffee with condensed milk and sugar 




Black coffee and sugar 


Kopi-O Kosong 


Black coffee (no milk, no sugar) 


Kopi-O Siew Dai 


Black coffee and less sugar 


Kopi-O Gau 


Extra black coffee and sugar  


Kopi-O Po 


Weaker black coffee and sugar 


Kopi-O Peng 


Iced black coffee and sugar 


Kopi-O Kosong Di Lo 


Extra thick black coffee (no milk, no sugar) 




Black coffee with evaporated milk and sugar 


Kopi-C Kosong 


Black coffee with evaporated milk (no sugar) 


Naumi’s Pro Tip:  

*Add ‘peng’ behind any order will convert it into the iced version 

*Simply substitute ‘kopi’ with ‘teh’ for the tea version  


Ordering kopi in hawker centers can be quite daunting for first timers, given the wide variety of terms to remember and its varying permutations. The key here is to say your order clearly, have fun and most importantly, be confident! If all else fails, most of the store owners will speak a few words of English 😊 

Kopi (Coffee) Types Singapore

Other Things You Can Order at a Kopitiam


Did you know Michael Jackson is also a drink in Singapore? Other than the common orders above, you may also find some uniquely Singaporean drinks that are only available in certain stalls: 



Special Drink Orders 




Milo Dinosaur 


Iced milo with condensed milk and sugar, with milo power sprinkled on top 


Milo Godzilla 


Iced milo with condensed milk and sugar, with a scoop of vanilla ice cream 


Michael Jackson 


Soy milk and grass jelly drink 


Diao Yu 


Chinese tea in a tea bag 




Ice lemon tea 


Teh Tarik 


Pulled hot tea with condensed milk and sugar 


Naumi’s Pro Tip: 

For takeaway orders, simply add ‘da bao’ to the end of your drink order. In traditional hawker drink stalls, takeaway coffee orders are usually served in a thin plastic bag as opposed to a plastic cup, another iconic trait of Singapore’s hawker culture. Feel free to bring your own cup, if you would like to be environmentally conscious. 


The Singaporean Breakfast


For a truly local Singaporean experience, have your coffee together with Singaporeans’ favourite breakfast —Kaya toast (coconut jam and a slab of butter sandwiched between two pieces of thinly toasted bread) and runny, soft-boiled eggs served on a small dish.  



Naumi’s Pro Tip: 

While kaya toast can be easily found across most kopitiam stalls, Ya Kun Kaya Toast is a common franchised outlet with English menus. Be sure to get their breakfast set for that authentic Singaporean breakfast! 

Address: Ya Kun Kaya Toast, 200 Victoria St, B1-11, Singapore 188024

Directions: 10 mins walk from Naumi Singapore


Love our kopi post? Check out our other local food guides for more things to eat in Singapore:

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