Singapore Kopitiam Drinks Lingo

As a true blue Singaporean, I felt like I have missed out on a huge part of Singaporean culture in the past 23 years of my life.

Here’s what happened:
I was queueing at the roast duck stall in Hong Lim Complex today and while waiting in the line, I heard someone going up to the drink stall and ordered “UNCLE, ONE MICHAEL JACKSON!”. He immediately caught my attention. I thought to myself, ‘did this dude seriously just order a ‘Michael Jackson’?! I was confused for a good 2 minutes until the drink stall uncle walked right up to the grass jelly and soy bean containers, mixed it up in a glass and presented it to the customer.

At that moment, I made a silent ‘OHHHHHH’. I was MIND BLOWN. All my life as a Singaporean, I never knew “Michael Jackson = Grass Jelly drink mixed with soy bean milk”. I clarified with my friends after that incident and true enough, it’s a thing in the Kopitiams (Chinese: 咖啡店; pinyinkā fēi diàn; literally “coffee shop”), where there are different unique terms for certain drinks. Immediately, I was inspired and decided to redeem myself by creating this post.

1. Michael Jackson = 50% Grass Jelly Drink w 50% Soya Bean Milk

medium_10509227793photo credit: elsie.hui via photopin cc

2. Clementi (A place in Singapore) = Home-made Lemon Tea

large_4776323155photo credit: avlxyz via photopin cc

3. 小白兔 pronounced ‘xiao bai tu’ Mandarin = Carrot Juice

Translation: Little Rabbit

photo credit: Pokka

4. 踢球 pronounced ‘Tak Giu’ in Hokkien dialect = Milo

Translation: kicking the ball

photo credit: Nestle Milo

5. Dinosaur = Iced Milo topped with loads of Milo powder on top

6. Godzilla = Iced Milo topped with shit loads of Milo powder on top PLUS ice-cream


7. 钓鱼 pronounced ‘Diao Yu’ in Mandarin = Chinese Tea

Translation: Fishing

8. 底裤 pronounced ‘Lai Kor’ in Hokkien dialect = Coke Light

Translation: Underwear


photo credit: KaiKibbler via photopin cc

9. “8456” pronounced ‘Buay Si Gor Lark’ in Hokkien dialect = Pepsi Cola

10. 老虎 pronounced ‘Lao Hor’ in Hokkien dialect = Tiger Beer

Translation: Tiger

I would like to share two absolutely adorable video that summarises this post by The Little Dröm Store. Enjoy 🙂

Bonus: How to order coffee/tea in Kopitiams?


  • Kopi, coffee with condensed milk
  • Kopi-gau, strong brew of coffee with condensed milk – “gau” (Chinese: 厚; pinyinhòu) means “thick” in Hokkien or “rich”
  • Kopi-poh, weak brew of coffee with condensed milk – “poh” means “thin” in Hokkien or “diluted”
  • Kopi-C, coffee with evaporated milk and sugar
  • Kopi-C-kosong, coffee with evaporated milk but no sugar – “kosong” means “empty” or “nothing” in Malay
  • Kopi-O, coffee with sugar only – means “coffee black” colloquially
  • Kopi-O-kosong, coffee without sugar or milk
  • Kopi-O-kosong-gau, a strong brew of coffee without sugar or milk
  • Kopi-peng or Kopi-ice, coffee with milk, sugar and ice
  • Kopi-siu-dai, coffee with less sugar – “siu” is the cantonese pronunciation of “subtract” or “less”
  • Kopi-gah-dai, coffee with extra sugar – “gah” is the cantonese pronunciation of “add” or “more”


  • Teh, tea with condensed milk
  • Teh-C, tea with evaporated milk and sugar
  • Teh-C-kosong, tea with milk and no sugar
  • Teh-O, tea with sugar only
  • Teh-O-kosong, tea without milk or sugar
  • Teh tarik, the Malay tea described above
  • Teh halia, tea with ginger water
  • Teh-peng, tea with ice, also known as Teh-ice
  • Teh-siu-dai, tea with milk and less sugar
  • Teh-gah-dai, tea with milk and more sugar

Whether you’re a local, or foreigner, I hope you learnt something new, and have a refreshing experience the next time you order a drink at a Kopitiam.

Peace & Love,
Eileen x

Peregrinate with me

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