Timothy Tye's Travel Encyclopedia
Ordering Local Drinks at Penang Coffee Shops

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Coffee shops in Penang usually serve a selection of local drinks. As most of the coffee shops in George Town are managed by Chinese proprietors, the drinks are often known by their names in Penang Hokkien. There is usually a hot and iced version of each drink. The iced version has the word peng1 , which means "iced", suffixed to it. If you order without mentioning peng1, you will usually get the hot version.

Kopi PengKopi Peng (19 May, 2013)


Both coffee and tea come with milk by default. If you want it black, add the word or1 , as in ko3pi3 or1 and teh3 or1 . If you want it thick, you add the word kau3, so for thick coffee black, it is ko3pi3 or1 kau3 . On the other hand, if you want it with evaporated milk, say ko3pi3 see1 .

In today's increasingly health-conscious society, you can also order the drinks with less sugar or entirely without sugar. To ask for less sugar, you suffix the word cnia4 , which means "bland". Alternatively, you can also say kiam1 liau3 , which literally means "less substance", the substance being sugar. If you want the drink without sugar, then suffix the name with mai1 liau3 .

Barli Snui Kam PengBarli Snui Kam Peng (19 May, 2013)

Ordering Drinks at Penang Coffee Shops

Most of the coffee shops you are likely to encounter in George Town are managed by Chinese proprietors, with a smaller number by Malays, Indian Muslims and Indians. I have put together a list of Penang hawker food as well as list of Penang coffee shops. On a separate page we will look at how we order our meals in Penang coffee shops.

If you are a foreign tourist, the following are some phrases you might be interested to learn for ordering drinks at local coffee shops. Most sellers would be able to understand some English, so you shouldn't get into too much problem if you decide to use English. Nonetheless, you will certainly endear yourself to the locals if you try to speak some Penang Hokkien or Malay.

The waiter will ask you something along the lines of:
What drinks do you want?
Penang Hokkien: Ai1 lim3 ha1mik1? / Ai1 ciak3 ha1mik1 chooi4?
Malay: Nak minium apa?

There is no need to give a full-sentence response, just reply with the drink you want. The following are some of the drinks you may order, in Penang Hokkien and/or Malay.
  1. Hot coffee with milk.
    Penang Hokkien: Ko3pi1.
    Malay: Kopi.

  2. Hot coffee, with evaporated milk.
    Penang Hokkien: Ko3pi3see1.
    Malay: Kopi tipis

  3. Hot black coffee.
    Penang Hokkien: Ko3pi3or1.
    Malay: Kopi-o.

  4. Hot black coffee, thick.
    Penang Hokkien: Ko3pi3or1-kau3.
    Malay: Kopi-o pekat.

  5. Hot black coffee, less sugar.
    Penang Hokkien: Ko3pi3or1-cnia4.
    Malay: Kopi-o kurang manis.

  6. Hot black coffee, no sugar.
    Penang Hokkien: Ko3pi3or1-mai1liau3.
    Malay: Kopi-o kosong. 1
    We often say kopi-o kosong even in Penang Hokkien.

  7. Iced black coffee.
    Penang Hokkien: Ko3pi3or3peng1.
    Malay: Kopi-o ais.

  8. Iced black coffee, thick.
    Penang Hokkien: Ko3pi3or3peng1-kau3.
    Malay: Kopi-o ais, pekat.

  9. Iced black coffee, less sugar.
    Penang Hokkien: Ko3pi3or3peng1-cnia4.
    Malay: Kopi-o ais, kurang manis.

  10. Iced black coffee, no sugar.
    Penang Hokkien: Ko3pi3or3peng1-mai1liau3.
    Malay: Kopi-o ais, tak mau gula. 1

  11. Hot coffee with milk.
    Penang Hokkien: Ko3pi1.
    Malay: Kopi.

  12. Iced coffee with milk
    Penang Hokkien: Ko3pi3peng1.
    Malay: Kopi ais.

  13. Hot tea without milk
    Penang Hokkien: Teh3or1.
    Malay: Teh-o.

  14. Hot milk tea
    Penang Hokkien: Teh3.2
    Malay: Teh.

  15. Iced tea without milk
    Penang Hokkien: Teh3or3peng1.
    Malay: Teh-o ais.

  16. Iced milk tea
    Penang Hokkien: Teh3peng1.
    Malay: Teh ais.

  17. Iced Chinese tea
    Penang Hokkien: Sng3kak1teh2.

  18. Frothy milk tea 3
    Malay: Teh tarik.

  19. Iced coffee-and-tea combo.4
    Penang Hokkien: Cham1-peng1.

  20. Hot barley drink, in a cup
    Penang Hokkien: Bar1li1juak1.

  21. Hot barley drink, in a glass
    Penang Hokkien: Bar1li1juak1-tua3.

  22. Iced barley drink
    Penang Hokkien: Bar1li1peng1.

  23. Iced barley drink with lime
    Penang Hokkien: Bar1li1snui3kam3peng1.

  24. Hot Herbal tea
    Penang Hokkien: Leng1teh2-juak1.

  25. Iced Herbal tea
    Penang Hokkien: Leng1teh2peng1.

  26. Iced Chinese herbal syrup
    Penang Hokkien: Pah1po1peng1.

  27. Hot water
    Penang Hokkien: Kun1chooi4.5

  28. Hot water
    Penang Hokkien: Kun1chooi4-sorm1.

  29. Ice water
    Penang Hokkien/Malay: Ais kosong.6

1 An alternative to saying "tak mau gula" is to say "tanpa gula". However, unless you can be sure your pronunciation is precise, avoid saying "tanpa gula" as it sounds quite close to "tambah gula" (more sugar).

2 The term "teh2" in a coffee shop means tea with milk whereas "teh2" at a dimsum restaurant means Chinese tea, which never comes with milk.

3 Frothy milk tea is rarely available at Chinese-run coffee shops, but is almost always available at Malay and Indian Muslim outlets.

4 This iced drink combining coffee and tea is often available at Chinese-run coffee shops.

5 Kun1 chooi4 means boiled water. It is also the common term used by waiters carrying a tray of drinks if he wants to warn of his approach, and to get you to move out of the way.

6 Ais kosong is a common term in Penang Hokkien and Maly for plain ice water.

Milo mixed with Iced White Coffee (Mi1lo4 cham3 paek3 ko3pi3 peng1)
This drink is available at the Pitt Street Koay Teow Thng Coffee Shop on Carnarvon Street. It is indeed tasty, but at RM2.50 per glass, it better be tasty!

Milo mixed with iced white coffeeMilo mixed with iced white coffee (1 June, 2013)




Fruit Juices


There's a wide range of fruit juices (Penang Hokkien: koay1chi1 ciap3) that are available at the coffee shops in Penang. Sugarcane Water (kam3cia1 chooi4)
Sugarcane water is one of the most common "fruit juice", if I can call it that. You can find it sold by pushcart hawkers on many roadsides, particularly at pasar malam. The price depends on whether you want it as it is or with ice. As with other drinks, the hawker often sweeten the drink with sugar, so you might want to specify mai1 liau3 if you feel the drink is sweet enough as it is.

Sugarcane waterSugarcane water (30 June, 2013)


Dragon Fruit Juice
This is certainly not a common drink in Penang. I learned about it at the New Lane Hawker Centre. It isn't cheap either, costing RM4.50 per glass.

Dragon Fruit JuiceDragon Fruit Juice (16 August, 2013)


Roselle Juice
This is another less common fruit juice. We ordered it at Kedai Makan Choo Kim Choon in Balik Pulau. I cannot remember how much was this, but not too expensive.

Roselle Fruit JuiceRoselle Fruit Juice (8 August, 2013)


Passion Fruit Juice
We had this glass of passion fruit juice at the Pitt Street Koay Teow Thng Coffee Shop. It is tasty and sweet, and also not cheap (but cannot remember the exact price).

Passion fruit juicePassion fruit juice (1 June, 2013)


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