It’s International Coffee Day! As the world of coffee lovers gather to celebrate and share their love of coffee, we’d like to share a list of our favourite local beverages. From the basic “kopi-o” to more exquisite things like “Milo Godzilla” and “Yuanyang”, this list pays tribute to the most iconic drinks found at food courts and hawker centres across the island.

But first, here’s a list of the commonly-used kopitiam (coffee shop) lingo:



Without condensed milk (note: there still is sugar!)



(malay for plain/empty)

Without both sugar and milk, plain



(hokkien for ice, the mandarin “冰”)

With ice



(Hainanese dialect)

With evaporated milk instead of the usual condensed milk


Siu Dai

(Hockchew/Fuzhou for less sweet, the mandarin ”少甜“)

With less sugar


Ga Dai

(Hockchew/Fuzhou for more sweet, the mandarin “加甜”)

With more sugar



(hokkien for thick, the mandarin “厚”)




(Hokkien for thin, the mandarin “薄”)




(Hokkien for takeaway, the mandarin “打包” or  “带走”)

Pack to go


These phrases are often chained together to form a drink order. For example, the Kopitiam Uncle would brew a hot cup of sugared coffee without milk if you say “Kopi-O”, but a cold cup of sugared coffee with evaporated milk if you say “Kopi-C-Peng”.



These phrases apply to both Kopi (coffee) and Teh (tea). Give the following questions a go!

(Answers will be revealed at the end of the blogpost)

  1. Teh-Kosong: ____________
  2. Kopi-Siu-Dai: ____________
  3. Teh-Peng-Ga-Dai: ____________
  4. Kopi-O-Siu-Dai: ___________
  5. Teh-Gao: ___________


Here comes the sweeter and more interesting part of the list:


Teh tarik

(Tarik = Malay for pull)

The tea is first brewed with spices like cardamom and ginger. After being strained and mixed with both evaporated and condensed milk, the tea is “pulled” from one mixing cup to another to create a signature froth.


Teh Halia

(Malay for ginger tea)

Tea with sweetened condensed milk and slice(s) of ginger


Diao Hee

(Hokkien for “fishing”, the mandarin “钓鱼”)

Chinese tea. The tea bag that dangles in the cup looks like fishing bait, which has helped the beverage gain its name.


Yuan Yang

(the mandarin “鸳鸯”)

A drink that hails from Hong Kong, this cantonese beverage is also known as “Kopi Cham” (“cham” is hokkien for mix). A mixture of three parts coffee and seven parts milk tea, this beverage is suitable for drinkers who love tea with a strong coffee roast. It can be served either hot or cold.


Tak Kiu

(Hokkien for soccer, the mandarin “踢球”)

Milo. This beverage’s unique name was derived from its product packaging.


Milo packaging with a soccer athlete


This sweet and malty drink is popular among Singaporean students as it is often sold in school canteens. The Milo Dinosaur and Milo Godzilla (seen below) are variations of this energizing drink.



Milo Dinosaur

A mug of iced Milo mixed with condensed milk and topped with a generous scoop of milo powder.


Milo Godzilla

Exactly like the Milo Dinosaur, but with an additional scoop of vanilla ice cream!


Rose Bandung

This beverage is often found in large clear containers with green rims at traditional drink stalls.

The ruby red rose syrup turns into a signature creamy pink hue once condensed or evaporated milk is added. It is usually served with ice. 


Soy Milk

Sometimes called “tau huay zui” (hokkien for soy bean drink), this drink is not just tasty, it’s also nutritious! Filled with vitamins and calcium, this beverage is said to have “cooling” properties and will help us ease our inner heat. A drink that can be served both warm and cool, soy milk is loved by people of all ages.


Grass Jelly Drink

Known as “chin chow” (hokkien translation of the mandarin “仙草”) to many, the dark herbal jelly is often mixed with a sweet syrup to mask its slight bitter taste. The grass jelly is thinly shredded so drinking through a straw is easy.


Michael Jackson

Inspired by the late King of Pop’s top song lyrics “it don’t matter if you’re black or white”, this beverage is a combination of creamy white soy milk and translucent black grass jelly. Unlike the shredded version in grass jelly drinks, this Singapore concoction has cubed grass jelly made just for gulping.


Sugarcane Juice

Freshly-squeezed sugarcane juice is a must-try at hawker centres! It not only keeps us cool in this hot and humid climate, it is also a healthy drink that boosts our immunity and contains little sugar.


Answers to mini quiz above:

  1. Tea without sugar and milk (Teh-Kosong)
  2. Regular coffee with less sugar (Kopi-Siu-Dai)
  3. Iced milk tea with extra sugar (Teh-Peng-Ga-Dai)
  4. Coffee without milk, less sugar (Kopi-O-Siu-Dai)
  5. Concentrated Tea (Teh-Gao)


October 01, 2019 by Cherise Ang

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