Old Town White Coffee – Kopi O… Is this coffee?

I say this is one of the previous posting “But let me ask you, the next time you go to any kopitiam, order a cup of kopi-O, and try drinking that without milk or sugar. Then you tell me how nice it is”.

Many times when people talk about coffee, they are not really talking about coffee.

What some people meant when they say coffee:-
1. Coffee flavoured milk
2. Coffee, vanilla syrup flavoured milk
3. Coffee flavoured, iced-blended, heavily sweetened milk
4. Condensed milk + evaporated milk, mixed with water and add crap coffee drinks
5. Add your definition here…

Personally, I don’t call any drinks coffee if the content has less than 10% coffee.
(Note: When I say coffee, I meant the finished product which is a liquid of coffee extracted with water)

Espresso: 100% coffee (but the actual content of course is (90%++ water)
Note: 1 shot espresso is approximately 0.8 to 1oz.

Traditional Cappuccino: 16% to 20% coffee (1 shot espresso & 5oz milk + foam)

Latte: 10% to 12.5% coffee (1 shot espresso & 8 to 10oz milk + light foam)

Other type of coffee derive from different methods like drip and press I consider 100% coffee because they only contain coffee extracted from water. You have later add sugar or milk but the percentage will not drop below 10%.

You will notice some cafe use ridiculously big mugs for your coffee drinks. They use mugs as big as 12oz to 15oz but they only put a single espresso shots. My friend, if you are drinking that, don’t call it coffee lah. The milk exceeds 90%+++, it is basically warm coffee flavoured milk.

Now back to Old Town White Coffee. They have been mushrooming all over Malaysia. And certainly most of their drinks with the name coffee does indeed have more than 10%Β  contents of coffee.

This is where you can differentiate between great coffee, good coffee and crap coffee.

I orders their 100% coffee, the Kopi O.

When you want to understand your coffee, remember 2 important points, aroma and taste.

So, I give it a few deep good sniff. Hmmm.. very strong aroma… like slightly burnt and sweet. Now why would it smells sweet? Ah.. they add some form of sugar and margerine into the roasting process. So, this is why they are call White Coffee. It is not even 100% coffee because apart from coffee that was extracted by the water, they were other “stuff” inside there. We of course do not know what is the actual ingredients.

Ok, never mind… not 100% also never mind. Cappuccino is only 16% after all.

Here comes the tasting. Arrrgggghh… gaggg…. poooiiii…. Wow… it tasted very much like charcoal water. You know, immerse charcoal in water, wait till it gets black.. that’s what I imagine. Totally undrinkable.

Calm down.. take a deep breath… Dear stomach, please relax… cool… Don’t throw up.

Phew!… This is a kind of coffee that is undrinkable without adding plenty of masking agents like condensed milk, evaporated milk and sugar.

Without a doubt, this is truly coffee. Truly CRAP coffee. That is how you describe coffee that is undrinkable on its own. They should use Gardenia’s motto about their bread, “So good you can even eat it on its own”.

I have tried many espresso that is bad, french-pressed coffee that is so-so… but undrinkable coffee??

Don’t believe me, go try it and let me know. Remember… decent coffee can be drank on its own. No adding sugar or milk.

As for me.. I quickly drink some “white coffee ice” to wash my tongue. White coffee ice is of course mixed with plenty of milk and sugar.

You can try “Kopi-O ice” if you dared. I’m just a coward.

Special note: What I comment above has nothing to do with their coffee drink making skills. It has to do with the “original” products. Their beans is most certainly of low quality, they say theirs is a blend of Robusta, Arabica and Libirica beans. The roast it DARK.. to almost charcoal like… reduce the coffee to almost a carbon-like state. With such condition, you just can’t do magic.


25 thoughts on “Old Town White Coffee – Kopi O… Is this coffee?

  1. Victor

    Agree with you Chan … even Arabica also have some grade, and robusta is cheap but Liberica is even more … cheap πŸ™‚

  2. unknown

    white coffee and kopi’o is totally different coffee. both ingredient used in roasting is not the same. sugar content in kopi’O is higher than white coffee. nice kopi’O got the strong caramel aroma, very dark in colour, and smooth body. somewhere, u can find nice kopi’o in Ipoh old town or some other place.nice kopi’O please dun mistaken, not talking about OldTown brand products.

  3. unknown

    There are two type of kopi u can find in Malaysia, one is white coffee added with condensed milk or black coffee (traditional kopi’O) with condensed milk.

  4. kfchan Post author


    Do you know the ingredient of both “white coffee” & traditional kopi’O? Would love to know more about it. I don’t know any roaster of both… so don’t really know.

    Barista Course? email me at kfchan7 (at) gmail (dot) com

  5. CWLoo

    SHould have read this posting before i ordered the Kopi O there last week! Anyway, my best wishes for your dad’s health. You take care too!

  6. Mr. J

    As a coffee lover, we must clear our doubt. Why franchaise business but the price is different by so much……???

    Penang state : Seberang Jaya & Bagan Jermal Branch
    White coffee (Hot) RM 2.50
    White coffee (Cold) RM 2.80

    Penang state : BM Maju Utama Branch
    White coffee (Hot) RM 2.80 (different by 30cent???)
    White coffee (Cold) RM 3.20 (different by 40cent???)

    What dramatic price different!!!

    All above branches are in the same state (Penang mainland but not Penang island).

  7. Eason Lee


    hi im a coffee lover, too! but not much a coffee taster. i drink all kinda crap coffee + coffee flavored food and only make instant coffee and coffee bags. just to get a kick of coffee aroma.

    probably the reason is i’ve been drinking hainanese (malaysian coffee?) roast for my whole life since my childhood times and start drowning myself in nescafe during my university days.

    i find your points for kopi quite interesting but it is a bit unfair. usually these coffee use liberica which is the cheapest and worst taste compare to other, but they still make it a popular drink. of course sugar and margarine is the trick and adding sugar in the beverage is a must before it can be drink (surprise that there are some uncles like to drink it without sugar).

    milk contribute to the aroma of cappuccino too, so why dont we just take it as same case, as “preparation process of the beverage”. i enjoy less sugar kopi-o during my weekend movie time at home with cream crackers or yao char kuai very much. it is simply enjoyable!

    usually i dun drink kopi without sugar. To me, it is not an end product. The correct way is to drink it with sugar and milk. but, i have taste before, kopi-o without sugar and not bitter at all, made by my aunt for my diabetic grandpa.

    kopi= roasted with sugar and margarine.
    white coffee= roasted with only margarine.
    proportion and roast time varies for different brand. (in fact i dont know because it is their secret recipe) i have fren from saikee 434 family, maybe i can try to dig some info from him. (oh, they do elephant bean product too! that is liberica, according to the packing!)

    anybody want to try it yourself to make your home made kopi with different bean and share the experience? i heart the traditional way is to roast it on wood fire in “oil drum”?

    do you like coffee beverage other than espresso based beverage? seems that you love espresso very much and hardly talk about other type of coffee beverage.

    sorry if offended anyone. just as discussion.

  8. kfchan Post author

    Dear Eason,

    Thank you for your comment. I too (and i’m sure most readers here) grow up drinking those traditional kopi. Do read my post on Kemaman Kopitiam:

    The purpose of this blog is to raise awareness of quality coffee. Therefore, generally I’m not too kind on using the cheapest and lowest of quality coffee. But then, traditional kopi still have their place in the market. Just look at how old town is florishing (which I think is more to their marketing then quality of coffee). And they are not cheap too. One small cup is RM2.80.

    And when economy is slowing, we all need our boost of caffeine at a lower price.

    Your opinion on sugar and sweetened milk is quite spot on. Traditional kopi, if being made with slightly higher grade of coffee, with the right combination of sugar and milk, can taste quite decent… as of my experience in Kemaman.

    About roasting: the way kopi is roasted is a real concern.

    In gourmet coffee, we know that what is in the roasted coffee is… just coffee.

    In kopi, we know there is sugar and margarine, but really is that all? The scary part is most of us don’t really know what they put in. And I think they put more than just sugar and margarine. And sugar and margarine is bad enough. And they roast it till the point of … I don’t know what you call that.. charr..carbonised?

    We read that eating too much BBQ food is bad for health… cause burnt stuff can be carcinogen, cancer causing. I worry when drinking something that looks like charcoal water.

    And as you say, the only way they can taste decent is putting sugar and milk, usually sweetened milk. Which turns out to be another health issue.

    But then in most coffee chains like starbucks, many people just drank syrup beverage.

    What we are promoting here is to drink coffee as plain as possible. And quality coffee taste great on its own. If espresso is too intense, americano without sugar can be great. Good cappuccino does not need sugar.

    Hey, don’t worry about offending anyone. We appreciate sincere opinion, even if it is an opposing view. Who knows, maybe someone can come out with some good kopi that is pure and doesn’t need tonnes of sugar to taste. I love to try it.

  9. Simon

    Hi Eason,

    Your views are valid of course..and there are many people who enjoyed traditional kopitiam coffee.

    Just a point on sugar and milk – I agreed that most people would require those in their drinks. It’s just part of the normal recipe. However, if you drink a lot of coffee, then the additional milk and sugar is not good for the health. The alternative would be to drink without sugar and milk – and that’s where the difference between acceptable and good comes into play.

    I have yet to taste a local kopi O kosong that is satisfactory (maybe we are more limited here in Sarawak) but with my 100% arabica coffee, I can drink them just like that and it tastes great.

    There is the issue of freshness as well – we can never get to find out how “fresh” the roast is…in fact at least in Sarawak, roasters often mix new and old roast together…this is probably common practice but in my opinion it makes the pursuit of fresh coffee difficult.

    Of course the economic consideration raised by KFChan is valid…500g local beans cost like RM12 here…500g of imported Costa Rica single origin for example cost like RM80….almost 10 times the difference. Is it worth it? Depends on how much premium you demand on your coffee…to me it’s worth it.

    One last point about KFChan’s blog…even though I think he prefers espresso…he uses other methods also like aeropress and french press…I think the method of brewing is really an individual preference but I think this blog is challenging people to look beyond “trusted” and conventional methods of enjoying coffee.

    thanks for your view..I think it brings a certain perspective to this blog…


  10. Trevor

    Hey… I do understand your point of view which is to raise coffee awareness. There are surely different grades of coffee, good coffee and “crap coffee” (which you are describing it). Afterall, it is just different types of coffee to suit different types of people. For example chocolate, there are pure chocolate, milk chocolate, flavoured chocolate… generally they are chocolate which catered to suit different people. So, it is kind of unfair to say pure “Kopi” is CRAP coffee.

    Nevertheless, I know what you are trying to bring across, of course we learn more on coffee in this blog but to be fair to the seller, I think more appropriate tone should be used.

    BTW, you have tried charcoal water before? Anyway, coffee that looks like charcoal does not means it is charcoal water, because I am sure the percentage of charcoal in the ROASTED coffee is not high too. πŸ™‚

  11. kfchan Post author

    Dear Trevor,

    Thank you vrey much for your comments. We do appreciate different view from different angle.

    Just to clarify a few things:

    1. When I refer to charcoal water… it was meant as an analogy… I mentioned “that’s what I imagine”. Of course I have not drank any charcoal water. Charcoal is basically wood that is burnts till they are 85% to 98% carbon. And some of these coffee were roasted “almost” to the extend like carbon. And they are NOT healthy.

    2. To say their coffee is “CRAP” is meant to describe their quality. And you are right, there are different grades of coffee. And like many things in life, there are grades too like chocolates, broadband connections, movies, government and etc.

    One of the goal of this blog is to expose more Malaysian to better quality coffee. Remember about 7 years ago, when Streamyx just started. Remember how many people say that Streamyx is CRAP. That is of course usually in comparison or ralative to better broadband connections enjoyed by other countries. Nevertheless, it was still good to have Streamyx then. And today, Streamyx has improve tremendously, though many still think they are CRAP. The reason is that technology improves and though Streamyx improved, other countries have improved by leaps and bounds.

    Lucky for us, coffee is not like technology. For a long time, good coffee abound. It’s just that many of us in Malaysia did not get to enjoyed better quality coffee, partly also due to government policies. The government policies is another story.

    Though some coffee is of very low quality, they still have their place in the market. They are cheap. I large majority of the population grew up on such coffee. I’m one of them too.

    I’m not sure if calling them CRAP is unfair to the seller. All you readers are welcome to give your comment. But if we do not demand better quality, why in the world would they improve on their quality.

    This is not just about kopitiam type. Many cafes used good quality coffee beans but make you a lousy cup of cappuccino and charge us high price. They totally not bother to train their barista to do a better job. And to these cafes, I called them CRAP too. Because I hated them? No. It’s because they wanted to jump on the bandwagon of popularity and open a cafe and charge high price and don’t bother with quality.

    But I do want to thank you for your comments. Do read the posting on Kemaman Kopitiam. Though the coffee beans send shivers down my spine, I still manage to enjoy their “Classic”. I suspect if I order a plain old black Kopi O, it will taste like crap.

    Hey Trevor, would you be keen if opportunity came along, to have a cup of coffee that taste good just on its own. No sugar, no creamer, no milk.

  12. Trevor

    Hi kfchan,

    great thanks to your reply. I appreciate what you have mentioned and glad that this blog do teaches us large info on coffee and I am sure many other readers do appreciate it as well. Probably I mistaken the word CRAP which you are pronouncing in on the blog above.

    For what I have commented is purely on my personal view, it may not apply to all individual. And of course all bloggers should have their own view on this matters. We share, we learn. If there is an opportunity, I will of course like to improve my taste on better coffee. Thanks for the invitation.


  13. Gavin Sia

    hey kfchan,

    I have all the solutions for you. I would like to offer you a chance to get to know more about coffee since you’re a coffee enthusiast.
    From crop to drop… from so-called malaysian coffee to international.
    Drop me an email if you’re interested.
    Cheers~! =)

  14. Ray

    Gavin: What’s your email? I would certainly like the opportunity to learn more about coffee. πŸ˜‰

    kfchan: I concur. Starsucks & the likes are so bad that they need to use lots of syrup, sugar, etc. to disguise the flavour of the coffee. Make the place look young and trendy, focus on the branding, free Internet access,… and it looks like people forget to taste the coffee. πŸ˜€ Strange thing though is that it works.

    A slight diversion: I do not believe that this is a problem with just searching for quality in coffee. I believe that Malaysians are just too drawn in by American style marketing gimmicks. πŸ˜‰ Just look at how successful American fastfood joints have become even when we know that they are complete junk! πŸ™‚ All this in a country where we have the option of far better food. If there are health warnings on cigarette boxes and a ban on their advertisements, why isn’t there a similar action against American fastfood companies? We should educate our family and friends to be very cautious when choosing any American product. Always approach American advertisement campaigns with a pot of salt. πŸ˜‰

    Back to coffee: I would like to know from anybody out there where are the best cafes in town (KL)? My main priority is the quality of the the coffee. However, one can always make coffee at home, so it’s nice to have the possibility to visit cafes which have a pleasant, relaxing ambiance. πŸ˜‰ Internet access is a bonus but not an absolute necessity.

    What about various methods of making coffee? I tend to like the local traditional way of making coffee with the sieve though I wouldn’t know how to work one. For Italian coffees, an espresso/cappuccino machine or mocha coffee maker of course. At home, I typically use a mocha coffee maker as the espresso makers are way too expensive for me. 😦

    Where can we buy good coffee (example of local & foreign brands) & coffee making equiptment?

    If you’re traveling just for the love of coffee, here’s my opinion.

    Coffee pilgrimage: Cuba, Colombia, Costa Rica, Brazil, Turkey, Italy, Spain, Italy, Italy

    Mediocre (good coffee available but only after a bit of a search): Holland, Belgium

    CRAP coffee (only available in specific cafes/restaurants in major cities, the population drinks crap coffee if at all): USA, Germany, Denmark, UK, Switzerland, China

  15. Wee Chuan


    Yeah, are you in the coffee industry? Chan & I, are more coffee purists, where we would not like our coffee being tarnished by roasting with sugar, syrups, etc.

    Even then, I realize all different brewing methods and roasting have their merits too in making coffee such a neccesity and also a luxury. More important, is the enjoyment we get from this black gold.

    Anyway, I am still interested in learning our Malaysian coffee if you do allow me to join in too with Chan.

  16. Wee Chuan


    If you do live in KL or nearby Klang, you can always join us (Irving, Chan, Joseph & I) in our coffee jam when we organize one at Irving’s. Unfortunately, it should be in the Feb as Irving is recovering from a back surgery.

    You can read on our last jam at this blog or my blog. If you do come around Klang, you can drop by my house for some coffee or we can chat more about coffee somewhere in a comfortable place. We are all learning & it is a long journey but I believe it is worth it.

  17. John

    Hi kfchan, in your opinion, are there any decent drinkable instant coffee that you would personally recommend? Restricted to those available in Malaysia, namely the white coffee, green coffee, ginseng coffee and tongkat ali coffee. Any particular brand?

  18. kfchan Post author

    Well, when I really ran out of fresh coffee…

    1. Nescafe Classic (my staple diet growing up) with Coffeemate.

    2. Chek Hup 3-in-1 Coffee Mix

  19. Lily

    Hi kfchan,

    We intend to start a CAFE in JB area, targeting EXEC level. We are not so keen to look for franchising company. It would be great if you could recommend local suppliers with good quality. You may also write to me at goh_siewlee@yahoo if you have more to share. πŸ™‚


  20. Hugh

    I am English and love high quality coffee. I lived in Penang for a year, and the Kopi (along with Beef Rendang!) is the thing I miss most now I am back in England.

    What you consider ‘high quality’ coffee is excellent, but it is available just about everywhere in the world. Malaysian style Kopi cannot be found anywhere else. It is unique, and I think it is a superb drink in its own right.

  21. OJP

    Malaysia coffee is unique yes. But OldTown does not serve quality coffee, that is even fit for drinking. I second to what kfchan say. Gawd Dayum. I/m never stepping into OT if it were to be my choice…

  22. N.B.

    I read an article online which stated professional taster comment about liberica bean flavor characteristic as “undesirable” – thin, harsh, acidic. I believe other type of beans if over-roasted will give such charcoal taste also. My point here is that malaysia mostly produce liberica (due to the climate factor I supposed) which is the least desirable compare to Arabica and Robusta, the producers should be given credits for being innovative for making drinkable coffee. Most important no harmful ingredients is included in the process. E g. white coffee is a very popular locally and abroad (asian, asia pacific), the industry helps alot in economics.

  23. presa1200

    It is Old Town white coffee and kopi O that made Malaysian coffee famous. I drink gourmet coffee occasionally too, it has nice pure coffee taste but the aroma isn’t the same as our Malaysian coffee. Yes, caramelized margarine and sugar aren’t good for our health therefore don’t drink it too often. Gourmet coffee such as espresso isn’t 100% healthy either, talk about cafestol then you know what i mean. Turkish coffee, French press and espresso contain the highest level of cafestol. Only filtered coffee and instant coffee have less cafestol. Everything must be in moderation.

    By the way, Old Town now has newer product that blend 3 types of bean together (Arabica, Robusta and Liberica) at least it is better than cheap Liberica alone (maybe Aik Cheong?). Indonesian coffee isn’t bad either, such as Kapal Api coffee that blends Javanese Robusta and Mandailing Arabica, not as black as our Malaysian kopi O but the taste is definitely quite pleasant. Good with milk and raw sugar.

    Whatever blend it is, coffee is a very subjective topic. We shall not narrow it down to a single way of drinking because coffee alone is a flexible beverage. Some like it pure while some like it with milk or sugar. Only the sky’s the limit.

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