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Exploring The Culinary Renaissance Of The Sacred Coca Leaf

The ancient inhabitants of the Andes believed that no important activity would prosper if it was not accompanied by coca. In the indigenous worldview, the coca leaf is what makes human activities sacred. It is what blesses the land and the crops, the food that provides energy and vitality to carry out hard work, the remedy for altitude sickness and stomach problems, a symbol of gratitude and a central food in the diet and agriculture.

Consumed since time immemorial, for many native peoples of the Americas the coca leaf has been a symbol of divinity with a cultural, spiritual and medicinal role under which the identity of hundreds of communities has been built. However, most countries see this leaf as the raw material for one of the most problematic export products in contemporary history. “Culturally, coca is rooted in Bolivian society; to us it is sacred. Bolivia is a country with a strong culture linked to it and, at the same time, we are aware of the worldwide conflict that has grown around it. Luckily, the coca leaf is increasingly present in gastronomy. In our restaurant we use it for many preparations, such as coca butter, bread, cocktails, infusions or ice creams,” explains Marsia Taha, the chef of the Gustu restaurant in La Paz, Bolivia.

However detached from cocaine, coca is still surrounded by taboos and stigmas. This gap between two apparently irreconcilable realities is in the process of being healed through a cuisine that focuses on going back to the origins and recovering its local character, including the ancestral use of this plant.

Mambe (toasted coca leaf powder) noodle ramen with bacon, heart of palm, sweet pepper, corn and cilantro from the Salvo Patria restaurant in Bogota.

Mambe (toasted coca leaf powder) noodle ramen with bacon, heart of palm, sweet pepper, corn and cilantro from the Salvo Patria restaurant in Bogota. Lucía Díaz Madurga

The Sacred Leaf

The plant, whose name comes from the Aymaran word khoka — in the language of the descendants of Tiwanaku, the civilization that preceded the Inca Empire — is a generous source of vitamins, proteins and minerals. Calcium, potassium, magnesium, iron, sodium, vitamins C, E, B1 and B2 are just some of the benefits that are being sought in the countries where they have traditionally been consumed — Colombia, Bolivia and Peru — by creating different formats and alternative uses.

The first use of the coca leaf in the global culinary field was a drink, as explained in the Coca Museum in La Paz, Bolivia. The year was 1886 and John Pemberton was trying to create a medicine for the stomach when, experimenting with coca leaves and kola nuts, he created a liquid that he named after its two main ingredients: Coca-Cola. The plant is not used to make this soft drink anymore, but new projects are seeking to take advantage of the benefits of these leaves of Amazonian origin and leave behind the taboos that surround it.

“In Colombia, Coca Nasa has a giant industrial undertaking. They make soft drinks, beer, tea, cookies, oils and even rum and coca liqueur,” says Alejandro Osses, one of the directors of the Futuro Coca festival, which was created to curb the stigmas surrounding the plant and explore its different uses. The company, created by the Nasa people of southwestern Colombia, grows and consumes coca for medicinal and ritual purposes. In 1998 they started to sell infusions of the leaves, promoting their nutritional properties, and today they have a whole line of food and cosmetic products, including the Coca Beka wine and the Coca Sek hydrating drink.

Something similar is done by Del Condor, which takes ancestral medicine to the modern market in the form of pills made with mambe (the powder of toasted coca leaves mixed with ash from yarumo leaves, used by shamans for spiritual and medicinal purposes), as well as their own Amazonian chai tea made with mate, cocoa, ginger and coca leaf flour. Due to its flavor profiles and its local character, in these areas matcha tea has begun to be replaced by coca leaf tea; one example is the Esmeralda chai, a tea mixed with coca flour, cardamom and clove, which is prepared and sold in powder form at Diosa Café, in Bogota.

The coca leaf has also reached haute cuisine. When clients sit at one of the tables of the Oda restaurant, in Bogota — at 8,612 feet above sea level — the first thing they are served is a traditional infusion of coca leaves to treat altitude sickness. “Our supplier is an indigenous person from Putumayo who sends us the dried leaves to be processed in the kitchen without losing their nutrients. In desserts, we have had a mille-feuille with goat cheese and coca powder and a sponge cake with chocolate from the Amazon infused with coca and with powder. When we use this product the amounts must be carefully measured, because it has an invasive and particular flavor,” explains Jefferson García, Oda’s chef, adding that in their cocktail bar they also include the leaf in their Luna de ciervo drink, “prepared with soursop tonic, coca leaf infused viche, prosecco and Tanqueray rangpur.”

Sommelier Laura Hernández has worked for more than a decade on her Territorio project. “It is focused on a way to synthesize the different Colombian regions through distillates, fermented products and traditional drinks. The goal is to transfer the sensations and emotions of each one of these places to a drink,” she says. In her restaurant and cocktail bar La Sala de Laura, in Bogota, Hernández used the leaves to create the Piedmonte distillate, a tribute to the Andean slopes that end in the eastern plains, a land of coca leaves, cocoa nibs and fermented coca.

The goal of all these cooks and their suppliers is to reclaim coca as an ancestral plant and not a drug. From this philosophy arises the mambe noodle ramen with bacon, heart of palm, sweet pepper, corn and cilantro from the Salvo Patria restaurant in Bogota, with which they put one of the by-products of the plant on the table. Many projects revolve around this raw material, such as Onésimo González’s viche macerated in coca leaf, a drink that bears his own name, Onésimo, or Pajarita Caucana by Ginger Blonde, where women from Cauca sell fabrics dyed with coca leaves from which they have extracted more than 96 different colors.

Despite the multiple uses and benefits of this plant, its demonization has created a worldwide stigma. For this reason, aiming to publicize the numerous projects that exist with the goal of highlighting the historic and cultural importance of these leaves, the Futuro Coca festival, held on July 30 in Bogota, was born. “We have an opportunity to change the dominant narrative based on taboos and stigmatization. Coca is power, it is Andean identity, it is debate and dialogue. And this festival was created so that, collectively, we can imagine a fun and enriching way to relate to this plant that offers us a world of possibilities for the future,” explains Carmen Posada, the other director of the festival.


Assessing Property Size: What Square Footage Can You Get With The Average UK House Price In Your Area?

Assessing Property Size In The UK

In the United Kingdom, there is a prevailing tendency to gauge the size of residences based on the number of bedrooms rather than square footage. In fact, research indicates that three out of five individuals are unaware of the square footage of their property.

However, a comprehensive analysis conducted by Savills reveals significant variations in property sizes throughout the country. For instance, with the average property price standing at £340,837, this amount would typically afford a studio flat spanning 551 square feet in London, according to the prominent estate agency.

Conversely, in the North East region, the same sum would secure a spacious five-bedroom house measuring 1,955 square feet, nearly four times the size of a comparable property in London.

Best value: Heading to the North East of England is where buyers will get the most from their money

In Scotland, the median house price equates to a sizable investment capable of procuring a generous four-bedroom residence spanning 1,743 square feet. Conversely, in Wales, Yorkshire & The Humber, and the North West, this sum affords a slightly smaller four-bedroom dwelling of approximately 1,500 square feet, while in the East and West Midlands, it accommodates a 1,300 square foot home. In stark contrast, within the South West, £340,837 secures a modest 1,000 square foot property, and in the East, an even more confined 928 square feet.

London presents the most challenging market, where this budget offers the least purchasing power. Following closely, the South East allows for 825 square feet of space or a medium-sized two-bedroom dwelling. Lucian Cook, head of residential research at Savills, emphasizes the profound disparity in purchasing potential across Britain, ranging from compact studio flats in London to spacious four or five-bedroom residences in parts of North East England.

While square footage serves as a critical metric, with a significant portion of Britons unfamiliar with their property’s dimensions, the number of bedrooms remains a traditional indicator of size. Personal preferences, such as a preference for larger kitchens, may influence property selection. For those prioritizing ample space, Easington, County Durham, offers a substantial 2,858 square foot, five-bedroom home, while Rhondda, Wales, and Na h-Eileanan an Iar, Scotland, provide 2,625 and 2,551 square feet, respectively. Conversely, in St Albans, Hertfordshire, £340,837 secures a mere 547 square feet, equivalent to a one-bedroom flat.

The disparity continues in central London, where purchasing power diminishes considerably. In Kensington, the budget accommodates a mere 220 square feet, contrasting with the slightly more spacious 236 square feet in Westminster. Conversely, in Dagenham, the same investment translates to 770 square feet. Three properties currently listed on Rightmove exemplify the diversity within this price range across the UK market.

South of the river: This semi-detached house is located near to three different train stations

South of the river: This semi-detached house is located near to three different train stations

2. Lewisham: One-bed house, £345,000

This one-bedroom property in Lewisham, South London, is on the market for £345,000.

The semi-detached house is set over two floors, and has a private patio.

The property is located near to bus links and amenities, as well as Catford train station.

Edinburgh fringe: This three-bed property is located on the edge of the city, near to the town of Musselburgh

Edinburgh fringe: This three-bed property is located on the edge of the city, near to the town of Musselburgh

3. Edinburgh: Three-bed house, £350,000

This three-bedroom detached house in Edinburgh could be yours for £350,000.

The house, which has a two-car driveway, boasts a large kitchen diner, and is within easy reach of Newcriaghall train station.

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Top 10 Florida Cities Dominate The Business Startup Landscape In The U.S.

Top 10 Florida Cities And Business Startup Landscape In The U.S.

The Voice Of EU | Florida emerges as a hub for entrepreneurial endeavors, with its vibrant business landscape and conducive environment for startups. Renowned for its low corporate tax rates and a high concentration of investors, the Sunshine State beckons aspiring entrepreneurs seeking fertile grounds to launch and grow their businesses.

In a recent report by WalletHub, Florida cities dominate the list of the top 10 best destinations for business startups, showcasing their resilience and economic vitality amidst challenging times.

From Orlando’s thriving market to Miami’s dynamic ecosystem, each city offers unique advantages and opportunities for entrepreneurial success. Let’s delve into the chronologically listed cities that exemplify Florida’s prominence in the business startup arena.

1. Orlando Leads the Way: Orlando emerges as the most attractive market in the U.S. for business startups, with a remarkable surge in small business establishments. WalletHub’s latest report highlights Orlando’s robust ecosystem, fostering the survival and growth of startups, buoyed by a high concentration of investors per capita.

2. Tampa Takes Second Place: Securing the second spot among large cities for business startups, Tampa boasts a favorable business environment attributed to its low corporate tax rates. The city’s ample investor presence further fortifies startups, providing essential resources for navigating the initial years of business operations.

3. Charlotte’s Diverse Industries: Claiming the third position, Charlotte stands out for its diverse industrial landscape and exceptionally low corporate taxes, enticing companies to reinvest capital. This conducive environment propels entrepreneurial endeavors, contributing to sustained economic growth.

4. Jacksonville’s Rising Profile: Jacksonville emerges as a promising destination for startups, bolstered by its favorable business climate. The city’s strategic positioning fosters entrepreneurial ventures, attracting aspiring business owners seeking growth opportunities.

5. Miami’s Entrepreneurial Hub: Miami solidifies its position as a thriving entrepreneurial hub, attracting businesses with its dynamic ecosystem and strategic location. The city’s vibrant startup culture and supportive infrastructure make it an appealing destination for ventures of all sizes.

6. Atlanta’s Economic Momentum: Atlanta’s ascent in the business startup landscape underscores its economic momentum and favorable business conditions. The city’s strategic advantages and conducive policies provide a fertile ground for entrepreneurial ventures to flourish.

7. Fort Worth’s Business-Friendly Environment: Fort Worth emerges as a prime destination for startups, offering a business-friendly environment characterized by low corporate taxes. The city’s supportive ecosystem and strategic initiatives facilitate the growth and success of new ventures.

8. Austin’s Innovation Hub: Austin cements its status as an innovation hub, attracting startups with its vibrant entrepreneurial community and progressive policies. The city’s robust infrastructure and access to capital foster a conducive environment for business growth and innovation.

9. Durham’s Emerging Entrepreneurship Scene: Durham’s burgeoning entrepreneurship scene positions it as a promising destination for startups, fueled by its supportive ecosystem and strategic initiatives. The city’s collaborative culture and access to resources contribute to the success of new ventures.

10. St. Petersburg’s Thriving Business Community: St. Petersburg rounds off the top 10 with its thriving business community and supportive ecosystem for startups. The city’s strategic advantages and favorable business climate make it an attractive destination for entrepreneurial endeavors.

Despite unprecedented challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Great Resignation, and high inflation, these top Florida cities remain resilient and well-equipped to overcome obstacles, offering promising opportunities for business owners and entrepreneurs alike.

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European Startup Ecosystems Awash With Gulf Investment – Here Are Some Of The Top Investors

European Startup Ecosystem Getting Flooded With Gulf Investments

The Voice Of EU | In recent years, European entrepreneurs seeking capital infusion have widened their horizons beyond the traditional American investors, increasingly turning their gaze towards the lucrative investment landscape of the Gulf region. With substantial capital reservoirs nestled within sovereign wealth funds and corporate venture capital entities, Gulf nations have emerged as compelling investors for European startups and scaleups.

According to comprehensive data from Dealroom, the influx of investment from Gulf countries into European startups soared to a staggering $3 billion in 2023, marking a remarkable 5x surge from the $627 million recorded in 2018.

This substantial injection of capital, accounting for approximately 5% of the total funding raised in the region, underscores the growing prominence of Gulf investors in European markets.

Particularly noteworthy is the significant support extended to growth-stage companies, with over two-thirds of Gulf investments in 2023 being directed towards funding rounds exceeding $100 million. This influx of capital provides a welcome boost to European companies grappling with the challenge of securing well-capitalized investors locally.

Delving deeper into the landscape, Sifted has identified the most active Gulf investors in European startups over the past two years.

Leading the pack is Aramco Ventures, headquartered in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia. Bolstered by a substantial commitment, Aramco Ventures boasts a $1.5 billion sustainability fund, alongside an additional $4 billion allocated to its venture capital arm, positioning it as a formidable player with a total investment capacity of $7 billion by 2027. With a notable presence in 17 funding rounds, Aramco Ventures has strategically invested in ventures such as Carbon Clean Solutions and ANYbotics, aligning with its focus on businesses that offer strategic value.

Following closely is Mubadala Capital, headquartered in Abu Dhabi, UAE, with an impressive tally of 13 investments in European startups over the past two years. Backed by the sovereign wealth fund Mubadala Investment Company, Mubadala Capital’s diverse investment portfolio spans private equity, venture capital, and alternative solutions. Notable investments include Klarna, TIER, and Juni, reflecting its global investment strategy across various sectors.

Ventura Capital, based in Dubai, UAE, secured its position as a key player with nine investments in European startups. With a presence in Dubai, London, and Tokyo, Ventura Capital boasts an international network of limited partners and a sector-agnostic investment approach, contributing to its noteworthy investments in companies such as Coursera and Spotify.

Qatar Investment Authority, headquartered in Doha, Qatar, has made significant inroads into the European startup ecosystem with six notable investments. As the sovereign wealth fund of Qatar, QIA’s diversified portfolio spans private and public equity, infrastructure, and real estate, with strategic investments in tech startups across healthcare, consumer, and industrial sectors.

MetaVision Dubai, a newcomer to the scene, has swiftly garnered attention with six investments in European startups. Focusing on seed to Series A startups in the metaverse and Web3 space, MetaVision raised an undisclosed fund in 2022, affirming its commitment to emerging technologies and innovative ventures.

Investcorp, headquartered in Manama, Bahrain, has solidified its presence with six investments in European startups. With a focus on mid-sized B2B businesses, Investcorp’s diverse investment strategies encompass private equity, real estate, infrastructure, and credit management, contributing to its notable investments in companies such as Terra Quantum and TruKKer.

Chimera Capital, based in Abu Dhabi, UAE, rounds off the list with four strategic investments in European startups. As part of a prominent business conglomerate, Chimera Capital leverages its global reach and sector-agnostic approach to drive investments in ventures such as CMR Surgical and Neat Burger.

In conclusion, the burgeoning influx of capital from Gulf investors into European startups underscores the region’s growing appeal as a vibrant hub for innovation and entrepreneurship. With key players such as Aramco Ventures, Mubadala Capital, and Ventura Capital leading the charge, European startups are poised to benefit from the strategic investments and partnerships forged with Gulf investors, propelling them towards sustained growth and success in the global market landscape.

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