By the espresso bar, where free coffee did flow, a customer ogled his short black. ''The first time I met these beans I was in El Salvador and we had an instant connection,'' he recalled.
Backstage at the Australian Barista Championships, competitors in ironed aprons and white gloves polished their cups and spoons. United by love of coffee and skinny jeans.
Barista Matt Perger, 22, paced across the concrete floor at the Melbourne Showgrounds. He looked tired for someone who had been trying about 80 coffees a day.
''Competing is a lot of elbow grease and a lot of hours,'' he explained.
His employer, St Ali in South Melbourne, flew in a professional coffee taster from San Francisco to coach Perger for the competition. And the investment paid off when Perger won his second national title on Sunday.
Head judge Saxon Wright said Perger ''had captured the best of coffee and brought it out in the cup''. He will now represent Australia in the world barista championships, which will be held in Melbourne in May.