Search Results for: kopitiam

How to Order Drinks at a Kopitiam

You would think that ordering a coffee, tea or juice would be just that simple. It is, at a modern eatery or cafe, but in a traditional coffeeshop, also known as kopitiam in Malaysia, a novice will almost certainly need time to get used to the terms. If Starbucks wasn’t established thousands of miles away in Seattle about 40 years ago, I’d have thought they took the idea of custom-made drinks from our kopitiams, which have been around for almost twice as long as Starbucks. (You know how they are with their drinks. Care for a tall, iced, no whip cream, no sugar, half soy milk, half low-fat milk, green tea frappuccino, anyone?)

Yeah. Ordering coffee or tea at kopitiam and mamak are (almost) that kind of complicated, and having been away for years, I needed a bit of a refresher myself. The traditional corner kopitiam is slowly shrinking in numbers, but terminology for drink ordering is still very much alive at the hawkers. I’m writing this post for my own good really, but those of you who are new to the local food scene and want to learn how to order drinks like a local, here’s a basic guide to help you along. For the purpose of keeping things simple, I’ll focus mainly on kopi (coffee) and teh (tea,) the most customised of drinks by kopitiam patrons.

How Kopi and Teh are Served in a Kopitiam


Kopi C & Kopi O; Teh O’ Peng & Teh Peng; Cham (hot) and Cham Peng in tapau (takeout) bags.

Three Main Types of Kopi and Teh

with sweet *condensed milk Kopi Teh
black, with sugar Kopi O Teh O
with **evaporated milk & sugar Kopi C Teh C

*condensed milk: a sweet, thick, gooey milk that comes in a can and melts in a hot drink when stirred. It is also used in desserts.
**evaporated milk: dense unsweetened milk. Has a much soupier texture than condensed milk.

Terms to Know for Customising Your Drink

Term Meaning Term Meaning
Ping Iced/Cold Kosong
No sugar
Gao Stronger Xiu (Siu) Dim or Xiu Dai Less sugar
Po Weaker Gah Dim or Gah Dai Extra sugar

Continue reading

Five Things Not To Miss In Ipoh Town

Everyone has a hometown outside Kuala Lumpur that they usually balik kampung during festivals and holidays. I was always a little bit jealous when friends said they were going out of town to see relatives in whichever state their parents families were at. While they were having a rowdy good time with everyone in their hometown, my family and I were one of the families left in an empty town. It wasn’t as bad as it sounds really — we liked having the roads to ourselves, and my brothers and I got to practice taekwondo moves right in the middle of main roads with no one to run us down.

If anyone asked, my closest claim to a “hometown” would be Ipoh. I was born in Hospital Fatimah and spent my first year of life on earth in Ipoh. Of course I don’t remember anything — or did I? I have fuzzy memories of facing upwards, looking at fluorescent lights, a fan spinning overhead and those patterned air vents built into the walls — but if we did join the balik kampung crowd, it was usually to Ipoh to visit my parents’ friends. Continue reading