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*Freelance Traveller

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This article originally appeared in the June 2013 issue.

Among the more sought-after products in the market are those made from the fruit of the mokaberi tree. The mokaberi tree grows on virtually any temperate Terra-normal world with moderate rainfall, achieving a height of up to 5m. The lowest branches of a mature tree are generally about 0.5m from the ground, making the trees appear almost shrub-like. The fruit answers best to the terrestrial classification of berries, though at maturity the seed has a hard shell within the flesh, similar to drupes such as peaches or apricots, though thinner. Unlike true drupes, though, the shell around the mokaberi seed is edible in certain preparations.

The flesh of the berries is a deep purple in color, and edible directly from the tree. The shell of the seed is a dark brown, indigestible but non-toxic without processing, and the seed itself is a pale green, and contains mild nerve toxins which are removed in processing.

Mokaberis can be processed in several ways, yielding both sweet and savory flavors. In general, the overall flavor has been characterized as being reminiscent of a combination of chocolate and coffee, with overtones of cinnamon and other aromatic spices. Humans and Vargr find both sweet and savory preparations to be enjoyable (within the normal range of human and/or Vargr sensory variation); Aslan and K’kree both find the odor of the berries and any preparations to be noxious, and class the tree as an invasive weed. Several minor non-human species ban or tightly control the importation of mokaberis or their derivatives.

Although “raw” mokaberis can be shipped (3,000kg/Td in special environmental-control containers), it is far more common to pre-process them and ship the processed product. Many processes are closely-held secrets, and some produce intermediate products that yield unique final products that command high prices in the marketplace. One such is the Popok Process, whose granulated intermediate product is used to produce confections which have a deep blue color.

“Raw” mokaberis can be purchased for a base price of Cr5,000 per 1,000kg; processed berries can vary based on the particular process in question, but rarely command a base price less than Cr6,000 for the output from 1,000kg of “raw” berries. A mokaberi “farm kit”, containing mokaberi trees, irrigation equipment, and soil preparation chemicals, costs Cr5,000 per hectare; a kit for planting one hectare requires 2,000Td shipping capacity.