Beverages that Singaporeans drink on a day-to-day basis hold an important place in their hearts, so much so that we have created rather special names for each of them. Here are some local drinks with interesting meanings behind their names.
The chocolate malt beverage with skimmed milk is fondly called “tak kiu”, which means “kick ball” in the Hokkien dialect, by many local stallholders. The nickname arose from the soccer player image on the original Milo tins. Although many different types of athletes are now promoted on Milo products, Singaporeans craving for this all-time favourite drink can still use the nickname when ordering at local coffeeshops and food courts.
Chilled soya bean milk with Chinese mesona stems and leaves processed into Grass Jelly cubes make a wonderfully refreshing drink on a hot day. The beverage adopted its nickname from the late King of Pop, whose renowned song “Black or White” is reminiscent of the drink’s monochromatic colours.
Cousins of the plain Milo, Milo Dinosaur is essentially iced Milo topped with a heapful of undissolved Milo powder, while Milo Godzilla is Milo Dinosaur with an additional scoop of vanilla ice cream. The given names attribute to the fact that these beverages are usually served in very large mugs, sometimes almost bigger than typical beer mugs. That being said, these beverages are so decadent that you need not be thirsty or craving for Milo to finish them! Milo Dinosaur was supposedly invented by A&A Muslim Restaurant at Sembawang Road.
While the names of Teh Cino and Kopi Cino seem to be inspired by the Italian beverage Cappucino, their method of preparation is not exactly similar to the latter. The difference is that for Cappucino, espresso coffee is added first as the bottom layer before the top layers of steamed and foamed milk, whereas for Kopi Cino and Teh Cino, hot condensed milk and water is poured first into the cup before coffee or tea is added carefully. In fact, the appearance of having two layers – milk at the bottom and teh or coffee on top – makes Teh Cino and Kopi Cino more similar to the beverage Macchiato. The one thing that Cappucino, Teh Cino and Kopi Cino may have in common is the relatively large proportion of frothy foamed milk used. In the case of our local drinks, hot milk is “pulled” like Teh Tarik from tin mugs to create the foamed milk.
Contrary to popular belief, the ‘C’ in Teh C stands for ‘Carnation’, a popular brand of evaporated milk, which does not contain sugar. Because there is no sweetener in this tea, Teh C usually contains an added amount of sugar, which can be adjusted according to preference, unlike ordinary Teh, which is tea with condensed milk that already contains a fixed and high amount of sugar.
If you enjoy dark lager, then a good old bottle of Guinness would do the trick. The alcoholic beverage is also called ‘Black Dog’ or ‘Orh Gao’ and sometimes ‘Red Tongued Dog’ or ‘Ang Ji Gao’ in Singapore, because old Guinness bottle labels portrayed a black dog with a red tongue, the mascot of the local Guinness stout distributor. So much so that in 2018, Singapore celebrated the Lunar New Year of the Dog by selling Guinness beer with the Black Dog packaging.
Kickapoo is a carbonated citrus-flavoured drink with a moniker ‘Kup Poh’, meaning frog. It is no wonder since Kickapoo is pronounced similarly to the moniker, and the drink is usually packaged in green like an amphibian.
If you haven't noticed, Iced Lemon Tea rhymes with ‘Clementi’, a neighbourhood and MRT station in the west of Singapore. It has no particular association to the residential area, though you may earn the respect of drink stallholders and be treated to a good cup of iced lemon tea.
What better way to end a greasy meal with a hot cup of Chinese tea? Otherwise known as ‘Diao Yu’, which means ‘fishing’ in Chinese, the beverage’s codeword is warranted by the similar freelining action we make when steeping a tea bag in the cup. In Singapore, there are mainly three types of Chinese tea served, namely Jasmine, Iron Buddha Oolong and Pu’er.