What to Read Based on How You Like Your Kopi
The art of kopi is an intricate thing.
Add a dollop of evaporated milk, and you go from a Kopi-O to a Kopi-C. Sugar calibrates the boundary between a Ka Dai and Siew Dai, the same way millimetres of the black stuff determine a Gao and a Poh.
The psychological relationship between how you take your coffee and your personality could arguably top that complexity (we think), but we aren’t the greatest of baristas nor are we certified psychologists. Book recommendations are what we do, so here’s our attempt at bridging the two topics with some literary irreverence.
Black coffee with condensed milk and sugar
Ah, the kopitiam classic. Kopi drinkers are comfort seekers, and people pleasers. You seek to soften the bitterness of life (looking at the amount of condensed milk and sugar that goes into a kopi). While you go out of your way to help others, you might not always take great care of yourself.
A classic kopi drinker deserves a classic that withstands the test of time. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald provides the glitz and glamour of the Jazz Age that plays up to the kopi drinker seeking a little bit of fun. But the underlying tragedy that unfolds for the mysterious Gatsby serves as a parable for how all the glitz and glamour might never afford you happiness.
Black coffee without sugar or milk
We won’t sugarcoat the facts (because you didn’t order it). The kopi-o kosong drinker is old school and a purist. You are patient and efficient; however, you can be quiet and moody. You are sort of set in your ways and resistant to making changes.
If you have a palate for the darker stuff (seeing that you can hold down the bitterness of black coffee), then you might be able to slurp up the Kafka-esque nightmare in The Trial by Franz Kafka.
Josef K. is a bank officer who faces unexpected arrest. He needs to prove his innocence, but runs against the burden of proving a negative. Lauded as a chilling commentary on totalitarianism, this book might make the kopi-o kosong drinker a little less resistant to making changes.
Kopi-C Siew Dai
Black coffee with evaporated milk and less sugar
You are detail-oriented and you like being in control (look at your specifically-crafted coffee). You are a perfectionist and you tend to make healthier choices, however you may come off as self-righteous and self-centered.
To take the edge off, try reading How to Be an Imperfectionist by Stephen Guise. The book delves into understanding the perfectionist’s mind set and provides concrete solutions to overcome the negativity that may come of being such a stickler. Bottom line: it’s okay to be a little messy sometimes.
Get the book here: Physical copy
Thick black coffee with condensed milk
You need that added kick to get through the day because you know what you want, and you know how to get it. Kopi Gao drinkers tend to take on leadership roles, and while hard-working, they fall off the mood cliff sometimes (might be that caffeine crash).
For the go-getter, Shoe Dog by Phil Knight could inspire you to just do it. The memoir by Phil Knight, creator of Nike, takes you through the thought processes, challenges and the growth of the athletic brand. It is equal parts emotional and motivational.
Black coffee with condensed milk and ice
You are confident in expressing your opinions and being socially bold earns you the title of a trendsetter. You are an “overgrown kid” who has retained the taste buds and sensibilities from the years past.
Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi is a retelling of Snow White that is darker and goes against the archetypes of a fairy-tale. Boy, Snow, Bird incorporates myths and folklore as a way to comment on larger themes such as race, identity and family. A sobering retelling of a fairy-tale for the kid-at-heart who is all grown up.
Get the book here: Physical copy
BONUS — Teh Drinkers
So you’re not hard-pressed for kopi — because you either hate the taste or the amount of milk needed to make it palatable triggers your lactose-intolerance. But we have not forgotten you. You’d expect the kopi drinker to be the chatty one (all that expressed caffeine), but teh drinkers can be fun too.
In Boom by Jean Tay, Jeremiah is facing the biggest challenge in his career — persuading a reluctant corpse to yield its memories. Boom is a quirky play about a surreal world where civil servants wake the dead and corpses are terrified of being cremated. For the teh drinker who isn’t like kopi drinkers, Boom promises an interesting perspective on life and the inevitable march of progress.
from National Library Board