Kopi or Teh for Me?

BODY IMAGE: Hotel Jen Penang : Kopi or Teh for Me?
BODY IMAGE: Hotel Jen Penang : Kopi or Teh for Me?

I love my lattes and cappuccinos, but when I’m travelling, I always want to try some local favourites. In Penang, this means a visit to the kopi tiam, the local coffee and tea shops. If you need an early pick-me-up, these places surely do the trick!

You’ll see your drinks being prepared by hand in the traditional way long before you taste them. How does it work? Beans or leaves are scooped and placed in a stocking that is then filled with boiling water. Most places strain the stockings twice and watching the dark liquids pass from jug to stocking and back is always mesmerising.

Both drinks are usually served with sweet condensed milk and sugar, producing a drink thicker than modern-day brews. This is what you’ll get if you order kopi or teh. You can also order kopi-o or teh-o for a black sugared version or siu tai if you prefer less sugar. Try a national dish with your drinks. Locals order toast, kaya jam and a bowl of half-boiled eggs for a hearty breakfast.

The always-crowded outdoor Toh Soon Café on Campbell Street can take a while to deliver, but when it does, the smooth Hainanese coffee they serve is strong and pleasing. Pass time waiting by watching toast grilling on an old wood stove. Kong Thai Lai on Hutton Lane is another favourite and has been serving up its kopi and kaya combos for over a century. Meanwhile, a touch of modernity is frothing up coffee at a traditional stall on Noordin Street. Order a signature coffee tarik at the Star stall and you get coffee made the old-fashioned way, yet topped with latte art. Foam-tastic!

Enjoy your traditional drinks in a historical setting at Loke Thye Kee, a recently refurbished heritage building with old-school colonial charm and the classic kaya toast and coffee.