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Custom syrups from Chef Shane Tracey line the bar at PERK. Photos by: Jackie Varriano

Eugene’s Shane Tracey wears many hats; aside from being a husband and father, he is the chef and owner of Nib A Modern Eatery, the creator of Kekau Chocolates, and an award-winning pastry chef. His latest venture is syrup master for PERK, a newer coffee shop sandwiched between Dawn Baby Salon and Deluxe Fashion Shop on south Willamette in Eugene. Tracey has been creating uniquely delicious natural syrups alongside quiches, cookies, pies, and gelato since the shop opened almost three months ago.

Tracey says he’s been friends with owners Aaron and Mitra Chester for seven or eight years, and can’t quite recall who approached whom. “I don’t know if they asked or if I offered – I think it was a little bit of both,” laughed Tracey. On a recent visit to PERK, the gracious bespectacled Aaron Chester said “Pie is important for me, and nobody makes pie like Shane.” Regardless of where the idea began, the results have been positive, generating good feedback from customers and a consistent increase in demand. “He went from maybe a pie every couple a days, now he’s up to four to five pies a week,” says Tracey. In addition, the syrups are refreshed about every 10 days.

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Chef Tracey’s Blueberry Lemon Tart. Image: Jackie Varriano

Unlike most commercially available syrups that use extracts for flavoring, Tracey creates infused simple syrups with a technique that he says is “like you are making tea, but with sugar.” Currently in rotation at PERK are lavender, rosemary, caramelized sugar, and vanilla syrups. Tracey says he’s also created pink peppercorn, orange, and cardamom. He currently is working on a maple syrup with the potential for maple bacon.

“We’re trying out new products all the time and getting feedback on it. The goal is to keep stuff shifting and moving in there so it doesn’t get stagnant and people don’t get bored, and really keeping it as seasonal as possible.”

On a recent visit to PERK, baked offerings included huckleberry pie, a blueberry lemon tart, and a chanterelle spinach quiche alongside cookies and brownies. As for the syrups, Chester has suggestions for taste combinations and a twinkle in his eye as he pours samples of his drink creations.

He lined up iced coffee in tiny cups, each topped with a splash of Tracey’s syrups. Each one yielded an unexpected reaction; lavender was refreshing and not as perfumed as many commercial syrups. Rosemary brought out a different richness to the coffee’s natural flavor; vanilla brought sugar without the cloying aftertaste, and the caramelized sugar left me craving crème brûlée. Even better was the lavender mixed with iced earl grey tea, or the caramelized sugar and vanilla mixed with seltzer as an Italian soda. Overall, the syrups leave your palate clean and mix perfectly with beverages, never overpowering the natural flavors of coffee or tea.

For a taste of Tracey’s creations, stop by PERK 7 am to 3 pm Monday to Friday, or 8 am to 3 pm Saturday or by Nib, open 6 pm to 10 pm Wednesday and Thursday, 4:30 pm to 11 pm Friday and Saturday, and 10 am to 2:30 pm Sunday.  Oh – and the pie, never forget about the pie.

PERK Espresso
1351 Willamette St.
Eugene, OR
531-636-3255

Nib A Modern Eatery
769 Monroe St.
Eugene, OR
541-485-1269