Last weekend D got into a pretty heated dispute with a coffee shop uncle in Serangoon Central over how he should have ordered “kopi with milk and without sugar”. It might seem that that’s exactly how he should have ordered it – “Uncle! Kopi with milk and without sugar!” – but in Singapore coffee shop culture, there are specific names for these things which in my 22 years, I’ve never actually bothered to really take note of or remember.
According to Wiki, these are the different names for your kopi combo:
- Kopi, coffee
- Kopi-gau, coffee (strong brew – “gau” is “厚” in Hokkien)
- Kopi-po, coffee (weak brew – “po” is “薄” in Hokkien)
- Kopi-C, coffee with evaporated milk
- Kopi-C-kosong, coffee with evaporated milk and no sugar (‘kosong” means empty in Malay)
- Kopi-O, coffee with sugar only
- Kopi-O-kosong, coffee without sugar or milk
- Kopi-O-kosong-gau, a strong brew of coffee without sugar or milk
- Kopi-bing or Kopi-ice, coffee with milk, sugar and ice
- Kopi-xiu-dai, coffee with less sugar
- Kopi-gah-dai, coffee with extra sweetened milk
What happened was that D wanted Kopi with regular milk but without sugar, but such a combination apparently does not exist, and the uncle made that extremely clear when he exclaimed in a really loud -and rude- voice: 这个我不会泡!你自己来泡啦! And yet, D has been ordering this at coffee shops for all his life now. (Note that it’s also not Kopi-C-kosong in this case, because D wanted regular and not carnation milk.) D could not accept that he’d been using the wrong name for all these years, while the uncle, in all his kopi-making pride, could not be bothered to make the effort to try and understand what was wanted or explain why the term was erroneous. I, on the other hand, was completely lost in what all the different terms meant. I always order teh-O (tea with no milk, just sugar). And I’m quite willing to bet my iPhone that a good proportion of people in my generation can’t tell their xiu-dai from their kosong either. In a decade, these terms will probably die out or be replaced by lattes and fraps. How depressing.