O-liang, or traditional Thai iced coffee at Bangkok's historic coffee house

Coffee O-liang, or traditional Thai iced coffee

by Kope Hya Tai Kee

On a sunny Saturday morning, I found my way to the oldest part of Bangkok, where narrow Chinese-Thai shop houses crowd together in the shadows of historic old Buddhist temples. My goal was to visit one of the city's most famous historic coffee shops for a coffee o-liang, a traditional Thai iced coffee. It was crowded, but the refreshing taste of the coffee was worth the short wait.

traditional Thai iced coffee

Dating back to 1952, Kope Hya Tai Kee originated as a Chinese-Thai coffee house with just three tables. It's still a tiny cafe, though it has been renovated sense and now seats a decent number of customers. It's self-service, meaning you place your food or drink order at the counter, pick up your own utensils, and find your own seat (sometimes you have to share a marble-topped table with a stranger, but that's one way to meet a new friend). When the server calls out your order, you return to the counter to pick it up yourself. It's sort of like dining at an American fast-food joint.

Kope Hya Tai Ke, Bangkok, Thailand
Kope Hya Tai Ke, Bangkok, Thailand

The cafe also serves Thai and western food (they are famous for their breakfast!), but since it was crowded, I just wanted to get a cold drink to take away. The menu is printed in both Thai and English, and it's easy to place your order. 

waiting for my coffee to be served

O-liang is a very traditional old-school coffee drink that's becoming a bit harder to find in Bangkok now that Starbucks and the likes are becoming more and more popular with the urban middle class. The name "o-liang" comes from Teochew, a Chinese dialect spoken by most of the city's Chinese-Thai population. "O" means "black" and "liang" means "cold", a perfect description of this famous drink.

Kope Hya Tai Ke, Bangkok, Thailand
late morning at Bangkok's famous coffee house

O-liang is strong, dark, and sweet. It's typically sweetened with brown sugar and flavored with cardamom, which gives it a really unique herbal sort of flavor that you can't find in other types of coffee. It's always poured over ice (necessary in the Thai heat!), and it can be topped with sweetened condensed milk if you like your coffee a bit richer and sweeter. For me, however, o-liang is already sweet enough. It's just perfect.

o-liang iced coffee โอเลี้ยง
o-liang iced coffee โอเลี้ยง

💲 - not expensive, but 2-3 times the price of a cup of o-liang from a local street cart. The ambiance and experience of the historic coffee house and the high quality of the ingredients is worth the price.
Iced o-liang coffee - 60 baht ($2)

Kope Hya Tai Kee is in a historic old Chinese-style shop house at the corner near Bangkok City Hall (10-minute walk from Sam Yot MRT station).

Official Website and Facebook Page

Also Nearby

Travel Tips
After a refreshing iced coffee, pay a visit to Wat Suthat, a beautiful historic Buddhist temple of the royal grade and an exemplary example of royal Thai Buddhist architecture (100 baht ticket). Nearby is the Giant Swing, once the site of a Brahmin ritual, and now one of the city's holiest landmarks. At the corner, you'll find Devasathan, a small but beautiful Hindu temple and the headquarters of Thailand's elusive caste of royal court Brahmins (FREE to visit).

Wat Suthat and the Giant Swing (left); Devasathan (right)

Wat Suthat and the Giant Swing

Devasathan Brahmin Temple