How healthy are our favourite kopitiam drinks?

Let's find out.

Cheryl Tay | February 3, 2015 @ 09:10 am


Like part of an automated process, you sit down at the coffee shop and call for the auntie with her waist pouch to order your daily dosage of teh tarik or kopi-ping.

Sometimes, you even have a few cups a day! It’s just 113 calories for a cup of kopi you think — but did you consider the amount of fat in the condensed milk and the sugar added?

1) Kopi / Teh

Kopi (coffee with condensed milk) – 113 kcal

Kopi O (coffee with sugar and no milk) – 66 kcal

Kopi O kosong (coffee without sugar or milk) – 5 kcal

Kopi C (coffee with evaporated milk and sugar) – 87 kcal

Teh (tea with condensed milk) – 153 kcal

Teh O (tea with sugar and no milk) – 113 kcal

Teh C (tea with evaporated milk and sugar) – 129 kcal

Teh C kosong (tea with evaporated milk and no sugar) – 26 kcal

Teh Tarik (tea with condensed milk and sugar) – 229 kcal

*Based on one cup; calories based on Health Promotion Board’s iDAT app

Looking at the absolute number of calories, you might think these drinks are healthier than a can of Coca-Cola. Sugar is bad we know and that’s why we should stay away from soft drinks, but what about the fat in the milk?

Full cream evaporated milk (made from palm oil) contains almost as much fat as condensed milk, so it is not as healthy as you think. Comparing 100g of Milkmaid sweetened condensed milk to Dutch Lady evaporated milk, the condensed milk has 8g of fat and evaporated milk has 6.3g. Not far off!


2) Milo

Milo is the chocolate malt beverage packaged in its all-familiar green with pictures of people playing sports. It is marketed as a form of “energy drink” which has lots of vitamins and minerals – well, it probably spikes your energy because of the sugar rush.


Just two tablespoons of Milo powder is already 120 calories with 15g of sugar (nearly one tablespoon of sugar)! When you order Milo at the kopitiam, they might add condensed milk or sugar, making it sweeter and unhealthier.

3) Iced lemon tea

Kopitiams have their homemade drinks, such as lemon tea, lime juice, barley and bandung. Iced lemon tea, unless made by yourself and you can control the sugar, usually has a lot of sugar. For example, in a can (330ml) of Heaven & Earth’s iced lemon tea, there are 142 calories and 35.3g of sugar (slightly more than two tablespoons).

Those you get at the kopitiam are generous on sugar syrup too, but you can ask for less sugar. Of course, tea is good for us with its antioxidants and the lemons provide Vitamin C benefits; but go easy on the sugar please!

4) Lime juice

Lime in itself has a lot of benefits and is good as both an appetiser and a digestion. It is also good for weight loss! This is probably the healthiest drink in the kopitiam, if you don’t add the sugar.

5) Soy bean milk

Soy bean milk also has many health benefits, but the commercially made ones are usually laden with sugar. A glass of soy bean milk with sugar is about 138 calories, but only 83 calories without the sugar*. Drinking it without the sugar may seem bland, so I guess you could try to ask them to reduce sugar then.

*According to Health Promotion Board’s iDAT app

About Cheryl Tay

Cheryl Tay is often caught between her pen and camera, trying to put out a story about the latest car, the exhilarating Formula One race, the hottest fitness chicks in Singapore or the heart-pumping mixed martial arts action. All of her adventures can be read at www.cheryltay.sg or you can get them in bite-size on her Facebook or Instagram.

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