The 3 R’s of BOBA

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-April 30, 2018- Sara Barton

Anytime is a good time for bubble tea, also affectionately known as, boba. It’s delicious whether it’s hot or cold. There’s now, light bulb tea, popping bubbles, boba tea ice cream, and floats(sold by Bar Pa Tea): cheese tea is now sold in Greenwich Village, thanks to Debutea.  As the weather is getting warmer; the refreshing drink paired with tapioca bubbles has become a city staple, especially in hot weather.

Amidst society’s growing eco-consciousness; it’s common to see reusable coffee cups, water bottles, grocery bags, and straws. Recently, I saw boba tea patrons toss their plastic cups in the trash, questions arose. Are boba tea cups recyclable? Can they be reused? Does a reusable boba-tea cup/jar exist?

I’ve divided the answers to these questions into the classic 3 R’s: Recycle, Reuse and Reduce.


Yes, boba-tea cups are recyclable! Disposable plastic cups that are marked with the resin identification codes(RIC) # 1 (PETE/PET-polyethylene terephthalate) and # 5 (PP-polypropylene); mean that they’re both are recyclable.(1) RIC’s are typically located at the bottom of the cup. If the lid is made from a different material, it will have it’s own RIC.


Recycling varies from state to state, so please check for the appropriate bins or drop-off centers. Also, researching your cities, towns or states recycling programs can unveil a great resource. Some cities, do give away free reusable items, such as water-bottles and bags.


If you live in NYC, toss your empty boba-cups/straws into the blue bin, and you’re good to go.


Also, Preserve’s, Gimme 5 Program (nation-wide) accepts #5(PP-polypropylene) plastic. You can either drop it off at a location or send them by mail. Preserve recycles them to make toothbrushes, flatware, cups, bowls, and plates.

When it comes to recycling straws; it’s complicated. They’re made of recyclable plastic, usually #5 (PP-polypropylene). However, it’s difficult to recycle them due to their small size. Very few facilities have the necessary equipment. (2)  Similar to how plastics bags are recyclable, but they’re cumbersome since they clog the machines.


Surprisingly, in a piece by PureWow, apparently, NYC recycles straws.


There are tons and tons of ideas on how to reuse, repurpose or upcycle your boba-cups. If you love crafting or DIY projects; then these cups aren’t trash, they’re art supplies. I repurposed my boba-tea cups into pencils/pen holders. Also, I’ve re-used my boba-straws in my NFL & Fine Arts Project.

Here’s a nifty DIY video with some unique ideas on how to reuse plastic cups.

Unless you’re supercyclers, such as, designers, Liane Rossler and Sarah K who’ve taken it to the next level.


These cups are constructed from reused plastic. It’s all about letting those creative sparks fly. Think of your next cosplay or Halloween costume? Boba cups and straws are excellent materials.

[Please wash and clean plastic cups/straws before reusing.]


While reusable coffee cups are widely available; the boba industry faces a unique set of challenges for its reusable options. You can buy mason jars with straw attachments. However, they’re not big enough for boba straws. The same issue goes for reusable straws. Biodegradable plastic straws aren’t available in boba-size; paper straws quickly become saturated with moisture, and boba-size reusable straws are very expensive.

According to Grub Street, Taiwan, (the birthplace of boba), has set out an aggressive plan to eliminate disposable plastic. In 2019, plastic straws are the 1st on the chopping block. Economically biodegradable alternatives aren’t widely available. How the boba industry will adapt remains to be seen.

Yet, there’s some light at the end of the tunnel, Loliware, a U.S.-based start-up that introduced compostable seaweed-based cups in 2015, has launched a successful Indiegogo campaign for “the world’s first edible, hyper compostable straw aimed at replacing plastic straws.” Guess what? They plan on making boba straws and cups.

In the meantime, here are some options:


Boba Guys, located in San Francisco and NYC, sells their version of a reusable boba-mason jar.

Kung Fu Tea sells reusable boba-tea tumblers.

All US Boba chains are unique, Vivi Bubble Tea and YaYa Tea also sell their own reusable cups/tumblers.

Rather DIY a reusable boba-tumbler?

Check out this tutorial from Angel Wong’s Kitchen

Last but not least, Homemade Boba Tea and it’s easy to prepare. It merely requires purchasing tapioca bubbles at your local Asian grocery store or order them online; and a boba recipe. Think of it as a fantastic opportunity to express your mixology skills. Create a boba flavor that’s “off menu” perhaps blueberry lavender, sweet & spicy or if you’re 21, add alcohol.

Plus, it has the added benefits of being healthier. Recent reports summarized by The List stated that certain types of boba tea are equivalent to high-calorie desserts due to their excess sugar and carbs. Homemade, gives you the option of controlling the ingredients, and it’s especially helpful if you have food allergies or dairy issues. While milk tea boba is delicious, not all boba chains have the option of dairy-free, lactose-free or nut-free milk alternatives.

Here’s a recipe from The Omnivore’s Cookbook.

How about this easy recipe from the birthplace of boba, Taichung, Taiwan?

Overwhelmed? Try a Boba Tea Kit. They include both tapioca bubbles and tea leaves/mixes.

uncommon goods boba

Check out this Boba Tea Kit from Uncommon Goods.

Looking for a reusable boba straw?


These plastic/silicone reusable straws are made from Grid Gear and can be purchased on Amazon. The price is decent at $6.99 for three straws.  Etsy has a variety of stainless steel boba straws.  Not ready to purchase a reusable straw? Then a spoon works too or reusing your regular boba straw (plastic straws can be safely reused 1-3 times.(3) As long as you clean them).

What is puzzling is why US boba-chains haven’t gone the route of coffee-chains? Starbucks and Donkin Donuts both sell coffee and beans. Personally, I’d love to see Kung Fu Tea sell loose leaf Oolong tea. It has a rich and bold flavor. So far, I’ve haven’t found a brand on the market that compares.

As the old saying goes, knowledge is power. Boba cups are recyclable; you can reuse them, and you can reduce by either making a reusable cup or homemade boba tea.

Don’t forget: April 30th is National Bubble Tea Day.  Enjoy and Recycle!


Let’s talk about MSG…

Ugly Delicious is the latest culinary splash on Netflix. (Still, haven’t watched it?  Check out VODzilla’s, “9 Reason You Should Be Watching Ugly Delicious“.) In Season 1, episode 7, “Fried Rice,” host David Chen tackles the myths surrounding MSG.

Growing up, I remember MSG as the hot-button medical story on the local news. “Is good or bad for you? What you need to know! Tune in Tonight.” Chen discusses the prejudice behind MSG and Asian cuisine. To learn more, I highly recommend Anna Maria Barry-Jester, article How MSG Got A Bad Rap: Flawed Science And Xenophobia.





What is MSG? Monosodium glutamate (MSG) is a combination of an amino acid called glutamic acid that’s stabilized with to sodium(salt); creating a white crystallized powder. Glutamic acid naturally occurs in foods such as mushrooms, aged parmesan cheese, tomatoes and fermented soybean products like soy sauce. Also, it’s naturally present in our bodies.1

It’s a flavor enhancer that intensifies the meaty, savory flavor of food. Otherwise known as the 5th taste, umami; in which a person’s taste receptors that typically respond to glutamate. (The rest are salt, sweet, bitter, and sour.)

Chen points out that most Americans strongly associate MSG with Chinese-American Takeout. While few are aware that it’s also in processed foods we eat every day, including salad dressing, barbecue sauce, bouillon cubes and canned soups and vegetables.2 It’s also a stabilizer in some vaccines.3 To protect them from being altered if it’s exposed to heat, light, acidity, or humidity.4

Here are a few familiar names for MSG:  

Sodium 2-aminopentanedioate
Glutamic acid, monosodium salt, monohydrate
L-Glutamic acid, monosodium salt, monohydrate
L-Monosodium glutamate monohydrate
Monosodium L-glutamate monohydrate

Ingredients like hydrolyzed protein, autolyzed yeast, and sodium caseinate, soy extracts, and protein isolate are all pseudonyms for MSG.5

In the episode, food historian, Ian Mosby, (also cited in Barry-Jester’s article) makes an appearance. He and Chang feed Doritos to an assembled group of people who claim to have adverse reactions to the MSG when they eat Chinese food. Mosby explains how MSG is also in several packaged foods (i.e., your favorite junk food).

“No one ever said Doritos made them sick. Look on the package. There’s MSG.” — David Chang.

I would have loved if the food science segment had continued, alas David had to get back to the mouth-watering cuisine. Nevertheless, I’m going to pick-up where he and Mosby left off.

In 2008, when I was undergoing tests to find out if I had celiac disease or a gluten allergy; I came across statements saying that MSG is made from or contains gluten. That’s not true. To quote the FDA, “No—glutamate or glutamic acid has nothing to do with gluten.” Thankful there are now several articles and celiac forum posts dispelling this misinformation.6

Then, where does MSG come from? In Asia, MSG is derived from beets, sugar cane, tapioca and sometimes molasses. However, in the United States, it’s extracted from corn. If you have a corn allergy, you shouldn’t eat MSG, because it could trigger a reaction. It’s on a very long list of the foods and additives that a person with a corn allergy should avoid.

Also, corn-based ingredients are found in non-food items such as shampoo, toothpaste, IV solutions, medications, vitamins, cosmetics, dishwashing liquid, clothing, paint, plastics and pet food. Cornstarch, for example, is used in cooking but it’s also in disposable diapers and adhesives. Living with a corn allergy is very complicated. (I’d know. Yes, David, I’ve gotten very sick from eating a bag a Doritos.)

While allergic reactions to corn and corn products may range from mild to severe/life-threatening; there’s a striking similarity between MSG side effects and corn allergies; such as headaches, nausea, dizziness, flushing, rashes, feeling tired, and tingling in the mouth.

The fact that corn allergies remain unacknowledged in the overall MSG conversation is puzzling. The question of a glutamate sensitivity often pops up. 7 However, a sensitivity and an allergy are two different things- an allergy can be life-threatening.8 The one instance where it’s harmful to ingest MSG is left out. Instead of debating, the good, the bad and ugly surrounding MSG. The conversation needs to change. It’s time to start asking is it possible that people experiencing symptoms to MSG might have an undiagnosed corn allergy?

If you suspect, that you have a food allergy, please make an appointment to see your doctor, who can refer you to an allergist (a doctor who specializes in food allergies).

In addition, it’s helpful to keep a food diary to track of any reactions.
If you react, you should note:

  • What (and how much) you ate?
  • When did symptoms start?
  • What you did to alleviate the symptoms?
  • How long it took before the symptoms were relieved?

Want to learn more about MSG? Check out this video from Brit Lab.




Le Grand Mechant Renard at NYICFF

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March 11, 2018

It was a pleasant Sunday afternoon as the New York International Children’s Film Festival (NYICFF) held a special screening of Le Grand Mechant Renard(The Big Bad Fox), along with a Q & A/Interview with its director, Benjamin Renner.

I saw the original French trailer over the summer. When I heard that NYICFF was showing the film this weekend; I was ecstatic. So, this journalist hung up her press pass and purchased a ticket.

Click here for Trailer with English Subtitles

Of course, old habits die-hard; as I ended up taking photos and giving my business card to Mr. Renner. For those unfamiliar with his work, Benjamin Renner is also the director of the Oscar-nominated film, Ernest & Celestine(2012). My colleague, Anita C.Wang and I covered the film for Samurai Beat Radio at NYICFF 2014.

Ernest and Celestine- English v French?

The Origins of Ernest and Celestine

The Q & A/Interview deeply resonated with me. Mr. Renner shared that the film is based on drawings that he did as a teenager and gave to his family as gifts. As a film/animation student, I see similarities with my work. My superhero short film,  The Return of The Royals(ROTR), is based off a superheroine character I created when I was a kid.

A childhood visit to a farm inspired the plot of Le Grand Mechant Renard(The Big Bad Fox). Mr. Renner wanted to see the chicks hatch. However, his Dad wasn’t sure when they’d hatch. (It could be a few hours, days or weeks) His Dad, cleverly told him that once they hatch, that if they saw him, the chicks would think he’s their mother. (This is known as imprinting.) He’d have to get a job, feed them and take care of them. Mr. Renner then joked that at 6 years old, he wasn’t ready to be a single parent. Years later this would lead to an idea, ‘What would be unlikely “mom”?’ Hence, a fox taking care of 3 young chickens.

Mr. Renner later commented that ‘it felt weird to win an award for childhood drawing that I only shared with my family’. He was humbly referring to the 2018 César (France’s Prestigious Academy Awards)

Renner signs my sketchbook

la pièce de résistance

After the Q & A/Interview, Benjamin Renner drew in my sketchbook. Hearing him discuss animatics; I excitedly told him about my animatic assignment. It turns out were both animating humans for the 1st time.

I’m very thankful that NYICFF continues to show French animated films. It’s inspired me to create more bilingual work, whether it’s a film or comic strip.

Chibi Super Toy Joue Au SuperBowl

C’est ne pas mal du tout…LOL

The Phoenix Rises, Anime NYC Debuts!

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-Nov. 21, 2017- Sara Barton

This weekend, Anime NYC made its debut. It’s been seven years since an anime convention has graced the Jacob Javits Center. In 2007, Reed Exhibitions created New York Anime Festival(NYAF). However, in 2010, it merged with New York Comic Con (NYCC). The concept of combining the two pop-cultures frustrated fans. The end came in 2012 when NYAF was integrated into NYCC. Anime NYC reignited the aspirations of fans; like a phoenix, it’s risen and better than ever!

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Crunchyroll and  LeftField Media wove together a beautiful mosaic of Japanese pop-culture, tradition, and creative innovation. Along with the Full Alchemist (US Premiere), NYC Ramen Summit and Sailor Moon Day; in the midst of cosplayers, there were patrons dressed in traditional Yukatas and Kimonos. Across from the Tokyo Attack Arcade, booths sold yakisoba, snacks, Japanese household items, tea cups, and dishware.

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The anime scene has changed since 2007. Anime NYC is a reflection of that; especially in artist alley, amidst the fan-based pop-culture items; one could also find Japanese prints, charms, and keychains. Sellers often commented that it was their charms that sold the most. Manga artist/illustrator, Hiroki Otsuka, said, “It’s a cross between Flame Con and Anime Fest.”

What makes Anime NYC different is its brilliant utilization of the Jacob Javits Convention Center space. Unlike NYCC, there were Security/Prop Check tables at each entrance, the Expo Hall, and panels to avoid massive entry lines. There were open spaces for photographers and to prevent over-crowding. An attendee in a giant Pikachu costume took advantage to entertain patrons.

This reporter appreciated that the Press Room was in private room on the second floor. It was a tranquil oasis from the hustle and bustle.


Also, Anime NYC strategically placed the gender-neutral bathrooms in the Expo Hall, where there was a high volume of attendees, cutting down on long lines. (Remember fellas, please the put the seat down. It’s courteous and it speeds up traffic.)


Deadpool crashes Anime NYC

NYCC has a reputation for being very crowded which can be overwhelming for patrons. Although Anime NYC had 20,000 attendees in comparison to the 180,000 at NYCC; it gave the feeling of a smaller and friendlier convention. This lead to an opportunity to socialize and meet new people, which attendees greatly appreciated.

It’s only the beginning; Anime NYC will become an annual affair (as of Nov. 16-18, 2018).

Visit for updates.


Twitter: @AnimeNYC.

Instagram: @AnimeNYC


The Return of The Royals(ROTR)

The Guardians’ of the Universe return to protect the fabric of the cosmos from disintegrating after a magical toy has been stolen.

The Return of The Royals(ROTR) is a labor of love. The idea for this superhero short film came at the beginning of 2016 during Production class. I had finished my first assignment, a short vignette, a combination of a song and visuals that reflect who we are. It’s only afterward, I realized the film that I should have made. Thus, the superhero short was born.

ROTR is mash-up of The Royals, a graphic novel manuscript (co-written by my spouse & I); an ode to 90’s cartoon nostalgia, and of course sports references. It’s an amalgamation of the past and present; the cartoons and animated films that inspired me as a child to create my own original superheroes and my current inspirations. Most of all, it’s a dedication to the love of my life.

I’m very thankful to have been given the opportunity to create this film and for all the love, support, and encouragement. “Producing a film, like playing football is truly a team sport.” We encountered several challenges and obstacles along the way, such as a mini-tornado, re-shooting, multiple re-writes due to injuries, no lead actress (I cameoed). In the end, I think it was my spouse and universe saying, “Sara, go back into acting.”

Nevertheless, we worked together, rose above and pulled through- as a team. My heartfelt gratitude goes out to the cast & crew, and everyone who helped along the way.

Thank you for helping me bring this film to life!

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James McKinnon as Super Toy

Jason Russell (Guest Star)

Sara Barton (Cameo)

Katie Gray

Brett Bullard

Jo Ambrosia as Sailor Moon

Chris Hughes

Dillon Herbig

Head Director: Sara Barton

Co-Directors: Paolo “PJ” Piccolo and Nicky Mudryy

Screenplay/Story: Sara Barton

Editors/VFX: Paolo “PJ” Piccolo, Sarah Beim(Vellichor Productions), Sara Barton and Anna Lee Hewing

Executive Producer: Sara Barton

Co-Producers: Pocky Southmayd, Nicole Hope Caliendo, April Twist


Official website:


Instagram: @abartons.studios


Why Press Should Cover Flame Con


Whether it’s your first time covering the comic convention circuit or you’re a veteran; as soon as you hit the Press Room, it’s common to exchange ‘war stories’ among colleagues. Which con had the longest Press check-in line? or the eternal question, Why don’t Press Room’s have food or drinks? However, after covering Flame Con, the game had changed. Flame Con is journalist’s dream!

Here are The Reasons Why:


photo: Flame Con

The Super Staff & Volunteers

As soon as you walk into Flame Con, you’re warmly greeted by staff and volunteers who are eager to help make your convention experience a blast. It’s one of the important aspects that give Flame Con it’s friendly and welcoming atmosphere. The Press check-in is speedy and efficient. (This also includes applying for a badge.) This year we received a super helpful “night before” email from the new PR Director, Michelle Rose Micor, which also included a map.


The true heroes of Flame Con and they even wore capes



The Press Room

The Press Room gets better and better every year. Last year it was luxurious. This year, it’s not only gorgeous, it 2.5 times larger in order to accommodate for interviews. One of the challenges of conducting interviews at a comic convention is either reserving or finding a quiet space. If you’re small or medium Press Corp, you won’t always get a chance to reserve a space. You’ll most likely have to conduct interviews on the floor, where it’s very noisy. In this case, Flame Con staff went out of their way to make sure all Press got the opportunity to use the space.


Food, Snacks, Drinks, WiFi …Oh, My!

It just keeps getting better, there were water bottles and snacks in the Press Room! Most comic conventions do offer free WiFi, yet, the free lifesavers on the table were a delightful touch. (You might say it’s a clever pun). While the snacks went by fast, don’t worry, the Press Room wasn’t the only place that had food. Several booths gave out free candy and one vendor offered bagels and danishes! A happy journalist is a well-fed one.



Have you developed an interest in politics? Then, Flame Con is a great springboard. It’s a wonderful place to meet people who’ve taken a creative approach to our current political climate and a great way to get involved in the LGBT community. Flame Con hosted a twist on last year’s Geek Activism panel, called “Queering Activism” along with other panels and workshops on diversity & representation in media. I even received a free button saying “Bisexuals Against White Supremacy”.


The Press Room Sign

Flame Con is well-known for its pop-culture style signs. Whether it’s the Flame Con logo, Cosplay Repair Station or the Gender Neutral Bathrooms; each booth or room has its own unique sign based in the spirit of comic book tradition. The Press Room Sign is reminiscent of Clark Kent’s Press hat from The Fleischer Superman Cartoons (1941).  Alongside Ironheart(Cosplay Repair Station Sign) and Snorlax(AFK Lounge Sign); this journalist felt like a Superhero.

Last, but not least…

Flame Con is Fulfilling!

Covering Flame Con is one of the best assignments I’ve ever had. It’s more than just a job; it’s rewarding. I feel that I’m part of a growing community and that I’m making a difference- That’s priceless!

Still not convinced? Then check out my Top 5 & Top 10  lists on Flame Con and Flame Con 2: 2 Fierce 2 Fabulous.


What is International Women’s Day? It’s a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity.[1] Since 1975, the UN began celebrating International Women’s Day, along with a theme and events to empower women around the world. Yet, its history is unique. International Women’s Day has it origins as a socialist/Soviet holiday dating back to the Russian Revolution; it was originally a day to celebrate women’s rights and women’s liberation from being second class citizens. It was customary for women to receive flowers or gifts or get the day off from work. Russia and several former satellite states still carry out this tradition. Ironically, the first Women’s Day Observance was held in 1909, in NYC by the Socialist Party of America.[2]

On March 8, the organizers of the Women’s March harnessed the symbolism of International Women’s Day to create “A Day Without A Woman.” A protest that symbolizes unity and to “highlight economic power and significance that women have in the US and global economies.” The march was inclusive calling attention to the injustices cis women, trans women and gender non-conforming people continue to face. Marches were organized on a global scale.

Since the early 20th century, Washington Square Park has been synonymous with activism. In 1912, 20,0000 workers rallied in response to the disastrous Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire to protest for better working conditions. In 1915, Women marched through Washington Square Park for their Suffrage. In 1917, the Arch Conspirators declared Washington Square Park and Greenwich Village a Free and Independent Republic. This vibrant history of free speech continued on into the 60s and 70s, the anti-Iraq protests of the early 2000s; and today it was the perfect location for “A Day Without A Woman.”

Here are the voices of Washington Square Park told through photographs.

Pop-culture as a reflection of current events



Great sign (and great advice!)



Black Lives ALWAYS matter!



  The question we should ask—regardless!



It was good timing, as representatives from What’s In Your Box (an organization on promoting sexual health and empowerment) came to show their support. A woman carrying a sign saying “Queer Power” stood in the middle. Perfection!



Last, but not least your moment of zen as the NY State Nurses Association shows their support!


All photographs and video: Sara Barton

originally published via GeeksOUT!