Humble Drinks

This coffee does not look cold. In fact it is warm, a leftover from this morning.

How's the weather been where you live? Today was an inferno at 90 F here. Yeah, really. And for that, nothing's better than a little bit of iced coffee. When I was in Taipei and Singapore, I noticed the abundance of canned coffee and tea drinks, much like our equivalent of Coke, Pepsi, and Dr. Pepper. Canned coffee? Can't be good, right? After all, I came from Seattle, the Starbucks capital of the world if not the self-proclaimed coffee capital of the universe. 

Dun dun dun!! I do wonder if there's an actual Starbucks inside the mothership.
Well, these humble drinks proven me wrong. You see, coffee hold a long tradition in South East Asian countries, Singapore included. They are some of the producer of coffee in the world. The Singaporean has their own Starbucks version of Kopi Tiam and coffee is served with meal. They are so readily available that we enjoyed them for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

We enjoyed this Kopi as part of rice porridge breakfast (sadly only the you tiao/油條/Chinese donuts are shown).

One of the most popular chain of Kopi Tiam in Singapore is Kiliney. I think we went to several Kilineys when we were there, including the one at the airport, but we often frequented the Moms and Pops ones near hotel place as well. Kopi Tiam stalls are practically everywhere, I started to think that this may be the Singaporean/Malay version of afternoon tea, sort of a place for a bit of a snack and pick-me-up. 

A typical assortment of beverages in a Kopi Tiam,
clockwise from lower left: Milo, Soya Bean Drink, Kopi "O," Kopi "C."

At Kopi Tiam, Kopi (Malay for coffee) comes in several variety; Kopi means coffee without anything in it, Kopi "O" means coffee without anything in it but sugar (O = nothing, zero -- I know it does not make sense, I think it should be called Kopi "S" = coffee + sugar, and Kopi should be called Kopi "O"), Kopi "C" means coffee with sweetened condensed milk (my favorite). These suffixes also applies for tea, which is usually brewed super strong.

The Soya Bean Drink tastes just like soy milk flavored with pandan leaf or almond extract, it was truly delicious. Milo is dubbed as the "National Children's Drink" in Singapore -- cheekily mentioned by a lady who served it to the Tod; it is a chocolate and malt mixture, with some vitamins thrown in that can be mixed with milk. It is so tasty, not too cloyingly sweet, unlike the super sugary Nesquik counterpart that is available in the U.S. 

Somebody was hooked on Milo!

Of course there are other things in the menu at Kopi Tiam. I often ordered Horlicks as well, another rendition of malted drink like Milo, sans the chocolate. 

The food? Oh gosh, where should I begin. Breakfast is an assortment of toasts with traditional fillings like kaya, or more "western" fillings like jellies and peanut butters, along with soft boiled eggs on the side. Lunch usually comprises of local dishes such as Mee Siam, Laksa, Nasi Lemak... this can make a whole other blog post on its own.

Sure, there are Starbucks when I visited Singapore, but I think they won't replace these traditional establishments anytime soon. I saw how the locals were proud of it, frequented the many Kopi Tiams during lunch time and even had some take-outs after work. Someday, when the Tod goes back to Singapore when he's all grown up, I hope he will find the same traditional Kopi Tiam stalls are still burgeoning everywhere.

Wait, where were we? Oh, canned drinks! Right. 

I spoke to my sister, who works for in fragrance & flavor industry (I can't reveal the name of the company, but if you are curious, it starts with a "G" and it is the number one company world-wide that hold the marketshare of fragrance & flavor). She said that canned coffee like these are about.... 80-90% flavored to enhance the natural coffee aroma. The processing of coffee beverage pretty much destroys anything that resembles brewed coffee, plus, the good coffee is, of course, a bit expensive to use in commercial products. While she cannot vouch whether her company made the flavoring for Pokka, she can definitely say that Pokka is quite good compared to some other coffee-flavored drinks that she tried in her career thus far (and she has designed quite a few). 

Of course, nothing compares to the freshly-brewed iced coffee in your own backyard.

What's your favorite summer refreshment? Until then, stay cool, everyone!


  1. In Japan they always had canned coffee. I'm not a coffee drinker so I had bottled cold milk tea. I HATED it at the start but I grew to LOVE it!
    I love these kinds of posts - really enjoyed reading this!

    1. I love Japanese bottled milk teas, even the weird-flavored ones like strawberry + umeboshi tastes amusing. Thanks for stopping by!