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coffee shop

colloquially known as kopi tiam


A neighbourhood shop that sells hot and cold drinks such as traditional Nanyang coffee and meals, often frequented by locals. Now known as coffee shop.


  • Originating from the Hokkien (Minnan) dialect, kopi is a transliteration of the word coffee. In the early days, most of the kopitiam owners were Hainanese and Fuzhounese, and kopitiams were also known as “tea rooms”. Frequented by locals, these shops mainly sell traditional Nanyang coffee, tea, kaya toast, as well as affordable local dishes.


In the days of black and white photography, coffee shops were also known as “kopitiam”, “tea rooms” and “drinking rooms”. Couplets like “more seats available upstairs, cosy rooms for tête-à-tête” were engraved on the pillars of the building. (Lianhe Zaobao, 12/4/2019)


  • The Malay and English spelling is “Kopitiam”, and also “Coffee Shop” or “Eating House” in the Singapore English language. Recent years see the mushrooming of large-scale kopitiams operated by corporations, which may replace the modest-scale kopitiams. As these kopitiams are larger in size, in addition to providing coffee, tea and other beverages, stalls are also sub-rented out to provide local delicacies and dishes.