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Sipping Singapore’s Iconic Kopi: Exploring the Rich Coffee Culture

Singapore’s Coffee Culture: From Kopi to Western-Inspired Brews

When it comes to coffee culture, Singapore is definitely not lagging behind. The Lion City has always been known for its diverse and rich culture, and the coffee scene is no different.

In this article, we’ll dive deep into the kopi, Singapore’s national beverage, its different variations, and how it is made. We’ll also explore the history of coffee in Singapore, and how it has evolved over the years.

The Importance of Coffee Culture in Singapore

Singaporeans love their coffee, and it’s not just a morning routine, no. It is a social affair, a passion, a way of life.

Coffee establishments in Singapore are not just places where people come to grab their caffeine fix, but gathering spots where friends and family meet and catch up. Singapore has seen a surge of specialty coffee shops opening up in recent years, and a growing number of cafes have also been popping up in neighborhoods throughout the city.

This shows the people’s interest in exploring different coffee varieties and taste profiles. However, one cannot explore the coffee culture in Singapore without talking about kopi.

History of Coffee in Singapore

Coffee was first introduced to Singapore in the early 17th century by Dutch traders. However, the mass production of coffee in Singapore started in the late 19th century, with the arrival of Hainanese immigrants.

The immigrants worked as servants for wealthy British families and provided coffee and tea to their employers. The Hainanese were not only skilled cooks but baristas as well, and they soon began selling their coffee on the streets.

Kopi – Singapore’s National Beverage

Kopi is a style of coffee that is uniquely Singaporean. It is made by roasting Robusta beans with sugar and margarine, which gives it a distinctive flavor.

The beans are then ground and brewed in a special sock-like filter called a “sock strainer.” The coffee is then mixed with sweetened condensed milk, which gives it its signature sweet and creamy flavor.

Kopi Variations

Kopi can be enjoyed in different ways, as it has various variations. Here are the most popular ones:

  • Kopi: This is coffee with sweetened condensed milk.
  • Kopi C: Coffee with sweetened condensed milk and evaporated milk.
  • Kopi C Kosong: Coffee with evaporated milk and no sugar.
  • Kopi O: Coffee without milk or sugar.
  • Kopi Gau: Coffee with more concentrated coffee mixed with condensed milk.
  • Kopi Poh: A weaker version of Kopi with more milk added.
  • Other variations: Kopi Si and Kopi Peng, which are iced versions of kopi.

The Cost of Kopi

One of the best things about kopi is that it’s affordable – a typical kopi costs only around $1 to $1.50! It is also widely available; you can find it at coffee shops called kopitiams, which are found in almost every neighborhood. This is why kopi is often referred to as the “people’s coffee.”

Singapore’s Coffee Culture Today

While kopi remains popular, Singapore’s coffee scene has significantly evolved in recent years.

Specialty coffee shops, such as Common Man Coffee Roasters and Strangers’ Reunion, have become a common sight in Singapore’s central districts. These cafes offer a variety of brews, including single-origin, pour-over, and cold brew coffee.

Recently, the Western-inspired trend of latte art, skinny lattes, and other fancier brews has also gained popularity among coffee enthusiasts in Singapore.


In conclusion, coffee culture is deeply ingrained in Singapore’s society. From a humble start with kopi to the diversification of offers in the coffee industry, it’s evident that the coffee industry is here to stay.

Singapore’s coffee culture showcases the influence of the Hainanese community, as well as the people’s adventurous spirit to try new flavors, resulting in a unique mix of sweet, creamy, and daring brews.

3) Ordering Kopi

If you have never ordered a kopi before, the terms can be quite confusing. However, with a few basic terms, anyone can order kopi like a true local.

Here is a rundown of some common kopitiam terms:

  • Kopitiam: A traditional coffee shop in Singapore that serves various local coffee and tea options.
  • Kopi: Coffee with sweetened condensed milk.
  • Kopi C: Coffee with both sweetened condensed milk and evaporated milk.
  • Kopi C Kosong: Coffee with evaporated milk but no sugar.
  • Kopi O: Coffee without milk or sugar.
  • Kopi Gau: Stronger coffee with condensed milk.
  • Kopi Poh: Weaker coffee with more milk.

Apart from the different kopi variations, you can also order different levels of sweetness and strength.

You can specify how much sugar you want in your drink by saying “siu dai” for less sugar, “gah dai” for more sugar, or “normal” for regular sweetness. To make your drink stronger, you can say “gau” or weaker by saying “po” at the end of your order.

For example, if you want weak coffee with less sugar, you can say “kopi poh siu dai”. In addition to knowing how to order your kopi, it is also important to understand the importance of taking a break.

Kopitiam culture emphasizes taking a break and resting, even if it’s just for a few minutes. This allows one to recharge and refocus, making them more productive and refreshed for the rest of the day.

Next time you stop by a kopitiam, take a few minutes to sit and enjoy your kopi, and let yourself take a break from the hustle and bustle of the city.

4) Where to Enjoy Kopi

One of the best places to enjoy kopi is at a traditional kopitiam. These small tented stores are often found in residential areas and are a staple in Singaporean culture.

The kopitiam is not just a place to grab a quick coffee, but also a community hub where locals gather to socialize and enjoy a taste of home. It is a reflection of Singapore’s working-class roots, where people gather to take a break from their daily work routine and catch up with friends or colleagues.

In addition to kopitiams, local shops and stalls also serve up some of the best kopi in Singapore. Tiong Bahru’s Flock Caf, for example, offers unique cold brew variations, while Chye Seng Huat Hardware is known for its pour-over brews.

If you are in search of a more luxurious coffee experience, you can also check out popular cafes like Toby’s Estate Coffee and Common Man Coffee Roasters.

Final Thoughts

Kopi culture is an essential part of Singapore’s food and beverage scene. It is an iconic representation of Singapore’s multicultural roots and is the perfect beverage that reflects the city’s hustle and bustle.

From traditional kopitiams to the modern, luxurious coffee shops, you can find kopi at any corner of Singapore. Understanding how to order your kopi and taking a break to enjoy it amidst your busy day is quintessential to fully experiencing Singapore’s coffee culture.

5) Conclusion

In summary, kopi is more than just a cup of coffee in Singapore. It is an integral part of Singaporean culture and a reflection of the country’s multicultural roots.

The tradition of sipping kopi in a traditional kopitiam or savoring a specialty brew in a trendy coffee shop is ingrained in Singapore’s local food scene. From the aroma to the taste and even to the social ritual of ordering and drinking, kopi is an everyday brew that brings people together and has become a source of pride for Singaporeans.

Despite the emergence of modern coffee shops and the introduction of Western-style coffee, traditional kopi remains immensely popular among locals and visitors alike. The unique variations of kopi are a testament to the creativity and adaptability of the Singaporean people.

The affordability and accessibility of kopi are also a factor in its popularity. You can get a cup of kopi for as little as a dollar, and it’s available at every corner of the island.

Kopi culture in Singapore has become more than just about the drink itself; it’s a celebration of community, family, and friendship. Kopitiams are not only places to get your caffeine fix, but also social hubs where people gather to chat, catch up and relax.

The tradition of coffee-drinking in these traditional coffee shops extends beyond the drinks and encompasses the sense of belonging to a larger community.

In recent years, kopi has also gained international recognition among coffee lovers.

People are starting to recognize the unique flavor of kopi and the culture behind its preparation, spurring interest and appreciation. The demand for specialty coffee and the growth of the modern coffee industry has not detracted from the popularity of kopi.

Instead, it has expanded the coffee drinker’s experience and appreciation for the diversity of the beverage as both a traditional and modern drink. Kopi in Singapore is both a heritage and a modern phenomenon that gives people a taste of tradition, community connection, and a local flavor that reflects the country’s multicultural heritage.

Sipping on a kopi allows one to take a short break from the daily grind and appreciate the moment with a touch of sweetness. We hope that this article has provided you with a glimpse into the world of kopi in Singapore and has inspired your next caffeine fix.

In conclusion, kopi is an essential part of Singapore’s local culture and a reflection of the country’s multicultural roots. The tradition of kopi-drinking in traditional kopitiams and modern coffee shops has become a social ritual and an everyday beverage that brings people together.

The diverse variations of kopi reflect the creativity and adaptability of the Singaporean people, and the affordability and accessibility of kopi make it a staple in the country’s food scene. Whether you are a local or a visitor, ordering and savoring a kopi is an experience that shouldn’t be missed.

Kopi is more than just a cup of coffee; it is a celebration of community, family, and friendship that has become a source of pride for Singaporeans.

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