On different occasions, I brought two of my caucasian friends to a local coffee shop, Hugh Mason and Charles Harbottle. While they both enjoyed the local coffee (I ordered Gao for both of them), I realized it must be extremely difficult for them to order any other variation from a straight up Kopi or Kopi O.

Photo (c) Danesh Daryanani

So, this post is dedicated to Hugh and Charles, and all other foreigners or visitors to Singapore. Hope this helps.

Local Terms Meaning Equivalent
Kopi-0 Black Coffee with Sugar Long Black with Sugar Added
Kopi Black Coffee with Condensed Milk None – be mindful that the condensed milk is sweet
Kopi C Black Coffee with Evaporated Milk None
Kopi Kosong Black Coffee without sugar or milk Long Black – no added sugar
Kopi Gah Dai Black Coffee with extra condensed milk None – very sweet!
Kopi Siew Dai Coffee with Condensed Milk but less sugar None
Kopi O Siew Dai Black Coffee with less sugar Long Black – about half a teaspoon to a teaspoon of sugar
Kopi Po Coffee with Condensed Milk but weaker (they add more water) None really
Kopi O Po Black Coffee with Sugar but weaker (they add more water) Americano with sugar and hot water added
Kopi Gau Strong Coffee with Condensed Milk None
Kopi O Gau Strong Black Coffee with Sugar Like a triple expresso with sugar
Kopi Peng Iced Coffee with Condensed Milk None
Kopi O Peng Iced Black Coffee with sugar Iced Americano
Kopi Gau Peng Strong Iced Coffee with Condensed Milk None
Kopi O Gau Peng Strong Black Coffee with Sugar Iced Triple Expresso with Sugar
Kopi Kosong Peng Iced black coffee without sugar Iced Americano without Sugar
Kopi Gau Kosong Peng Iced Strong Black coffee without Sugar or milk Iced triple expresso without sugar

OK, this is not a comprehensive list but you get the idea. Once you get the hang of it, you’ll be able to rattle off the words in the right combination to get exactly what you want.

Some terminology that will help you order the coffee you want:

Gau – Strong

Kosong – No Sugar, No Milk

Siew Dai – Reduced Sugar

Peng – Iced

Gah Dai – Extra Condensed Milk

Po – Weaker or Thinner Coffee (more water, in other words)

C – With evaporated milk instead of condensed milk

Note 1: Skim milk is still not an option (i.e. no Skinny Kopi)

Note 2: The above works for tea as well. Replace Kopi (Coffee) with Teh (Tea)

Enjoy.