5 Things You Didn’t Know About Kopi
STORY: Priyanka Elhence
01 October 2019
There’s coffee and then there’s kopi. Nothing perks up your morning like a trip to the neighbourhood kopitiam to get a shot of potent, no-frills local coffee that we affectionately call kopi.
Think you know everything behind this powerful brew? In light of International Coffee Day today, here are 5 things you should know and love about kopi.
1. Kopi is typically made using robusta beans
Unlike the typical western coffee that comes from Arabica beans, kopi is typically brewed using the more bitter Robusta beans from Indonesia. The beans are roasted in a wok with fat (butter, lard or margarine) and some sugar (maize and pineapple have also been used occasionally), to allow the beans to caramelise and for the strong flavours to develop fully. The roasted beans are then ground and finally filtered through a homemade infuser system where hot water is poured through a flannel sock filter coated with the ground beans. The resulting brew is the dark liquid gold called kopi.
2. Kopi's origins are steeped in eastern and western traditions
The history of kopi and their kopitiams can be traced back to the early 18th century when Singapore saw an influx of European immigrants arrive at their shores. The allure of coffee quickly took on an Asian flavour and locally, coffee was brought in from Indonesia by the Chinese, who were first introduced to this beverage through exchanges with Arab traders. The result - kopi was finally born. Did you know that ‘kopi’ means coffee in Malay, and ‘tiam’ means shop in Hokkien and Fujianese?
3. Singapore has a kopi museum
With the kopi culture so deeply engrained in the fabric of Singapore, it’s no wonder that a whole museum dedicated to kopi exists on our little island. Head to Chinatown, to the historic Mini Singapore Coffee Museum @ Nanyang Old Coffee, decked out in distinctive red interiors. Apart from learning about the history of kopi-making, enjoy a prized cup of kopi with kaya toast and other local treats. Admission is free!
Nanyang Old Coffee, 268 South Bridge Road, Singapore 058817
Find out more here
4. Bulletproof coffee? Call it Kopi Gu You instead
Kopi Gu You (which literally translates to Coffee Butter) is an ancient brew that not many people know of and not many kopitiams offer anymore. The toffee-esque kopi laced with salty notes is a delicious result of thick slabs of butter mixed into freshly brewed, strong coffee, and topped off with another slab of butter.
5. Want thicker coffee? Try Kopi + Egg (Kopi Ka Koi Nrng)
Yes, one more old school brew that is almost hard to find. As the name suggests, Kopi Ka Koi Nrng is simply kopi with a raw egg and originated as a pick-me-up protein boost drink for tired workers. Luckily it stuck, and now the fragrant brew is ideal when you want protein and a thicker kopi at once. Think of it as a convenient, wholesome breakfast that you can drink on the go.