Perhaps ‘a cuppa a day keeps the doctor away’ will be an excellent quote for all the hardcore coffee lovers out there who consider the day incomplete without their caffeine fix. Undeniably, chugging down too much caffeine is inadvisable. In the long run, it could also take a toll on your bank account – especially if you get your coffee from coffee shop franchises like Starbucks.

Just imagine the amount of money you could save by switching up your latte to a kopi from the nearest hawker centre. For an easier transition to the Kopitiam life, we’ve compiled a list of standard kopi orders below. Plus, we’ve also made a comparison to the coffee menu from Starbucks so it spares the need for a trial and error.

*kopi (koh-pee) – is a direct translation of coffee in the Malay Language


The most standard order of all time. Ordering “Uncle, one kopi!” will bring you a strong cup of black coffee with condensed milk and sugar.

Challenge yourself by ordering in these languages too:
In Malay: Uncle Kopi Satu!
In Chinese: Uncle yi ge kopi!

Starbucks equivalent: Long Black with milk/Brewed coffee with milk

Kopi Kosong

The term ‘kosong‘ refers to the word empty/plain in the Malay language. If you are a coffee lover who relishes in the taste of freshly roasted espresso without any added sugar and milk, Kopi Kosong is the drink for you.

Starbucks equivalent: Long black

Kopi O

Here are the hawker centre alternatives to your favourite Starbucks coffees
Image: Panuwat Katlungka/ Gettyimages

As basic as it gets, Kopi O is simply black coffee with cane sugar.

Starbucks equivalent: Caffè Americano with sugar (which is not on the menu but could be brewed upon request)

Kopi C

The combination of black coffee with evaporated milk and cane sugar. Swapping the condensed milk in normal Kopi to evaporated milk in Kopi C causes the coffee to be less sweet.

Starbucks equivalent: Skinny vanilla latte

Kopi Siew Dai

It’s only normal to have the opposite of a sweet tooth, so if you’re a little cautious of your sugar intake, add a ‘siew dai‘ — less sweet in the Chinese-Cantonese dialect — to your Kopi order.

Starbucks equivalent: Americano

Kopi Peng

Here are the hawker centre alternatives to your favourite Starbucks coffees
Image: Anastasia Mihalkova/ Unsplash

Peng” is the literal translation of ‘ice’ in the Chinese-Hokkien dialect. Thus, if you prefer an ice cold coffee, add a peng to any of your kopi orders. For example: Kopi O Peng (Iced black coffee without milk), Kopi Peng Siew Dai (Iced coffee that’s less sweet), Kopi Kosong Peng (Iced coffee without sugar)

Starbucks equivalent: Any coffee drinks with ice.

Kopi Gao

In the Chinese-Hokkien Dialect, the term ‘gao’ refers to the word strong. If you need an extra caffeine fix to pull off an important client presentation or perhaps you stayed up late binge-watching Korean dramas, order a Kopi Gao — super strong coffee with condensed milk and sugar.

Starbucks equivalent: Caffe Misto (a hidden menu only true Starbucks fans would know of)

Kopi Poh

If you are not a fan of the extra ‘gao‘ (thick) in your coffee, order a kopi poh for a minimal dose of coffee (thinner coffee) mixed with an extra spoonful of condensed milk. Easy to say, it’s a diluted version of the normal kopi.

Starbucks equivalent: Blonde roast coffees

Kopi Gu You

Here are the hawker centre alternatives to your favourite Starbucks coffees
Image: Khaichuin Sim/ GettyImages

Despite being a local, this Kopi order has got me dwelling on it for a good few minutes with a sense of disbelief. Probably one of the lesser-known kopi orders, Kopi Go You is a combination of coffee with condensed milk and topped off with a slice of butter.

Yes, you read that right, we are referring to the butter that typically goes onto toast for breakfast. Who knows, this drink could have been created for someone who craves for both coffee and kaya toast. We’ve not had a chance to taste it yet, but if you are feeling a little adventurous, give it a go and let us know how it tastes like.

Starbucks equivalent: None, but you could order a cup of coffee and snack on a bagel with butter?

Kopi Da Bao

Here are the hawker centre alternatives to your favourite Starbucks coffees
The Kopi Da Bao has been a Singaporean icon for decades that in recent years, it was made into a bag. Image: Wheniwaswasfour

Da Bao refers to ‘take-away, or ‘to-go’. The next time you’re on a coffee run before heading to the office, tell the stall owner: “Uncle, Kopi da bao!”.

Starbucks equivalent: “To go please”.

Kopi Guide in a nutshell

Add these letters behind the word Kopi for a different variation to your coffee:

“O” – black coffee with sugar
“C” – evaporated milk and sugar instead of condensed milk and sugar
Kosong” – no sugar/milk
Siew Dai” – less sweet
Po” – more watery
Peng” – iced

Read More: 6 cafes in SG that offer tea by the pot to unwind and forget about work