Sunday, August 18, 2013

Tea Equestrian Polo Shop in San Francisco

On the north side of Golden Gate Park in San Francisco’s Richmond District, is a tea shop called Tal-y-Tara.  Family owned and run, this unique shop is a combination of the family’s two loves, tea and equestrian polo.  Located on a mostly residential street where you wouldn’t necessarily expect a tea shop, Tal-y-Tara attracts attention by displaying a life size figure of a horse on the sidewalk.

Inside the shop you can find everything polo, riding boots and clothing, horse tackle, crops, mallets, balls, etc.  And in the midst of all the horse riding and polo product are tables where you can sit and have tea in the British tradition.  The tea service menu includes small sandwiches and the most amazing scones.  Tea is prepared at the back counter area and brought to your table brewing in pots wrapped in tea cozies to keep them hot.  Tal-y-Tara offers a wide selection of mostly black teas, including creative teas such as Lindsay’s Teas spice oil infused black tea called Kookidoodle that actually tastes like cookies, and Tiki Tiki Chai which is a tastey chai heavy on the cloves.  If you visit, make sure you go with a group so you can order several pots of different teas to share around the table.
The cultural connection between tea and the game of polo grew from the colonial British in India in the 19th century.  There the British soldiers and tea farmers were exposed to the precursor of polo, Sagol Kangjei, played in India’s Manipur region. The British standardized the rules of the game and in 1862 established the Calcutta Polo Club, the first polo club in the world.

Although there isn’t much horseback riding in San Francisco these days, there used to be.  In 2001, the Golden Gate Park Stables closed up shop, pretty much ending 130 years of horses and riding in San Francisco.[1]  The good news is that the Golden Gate Park’s website says there are plans “in the works to rejuvenate the stables.”[2]  In the meanwhile, there is still a polo field in Golden Gate Park where a few annual equestrian events are held.  The most well known is called Polo in the Park.[3]  Polo in the Park is a polo game and charity event that raises money for therapeutic riding programs for children.  It draws polo players from all over the world and many of them seek out Tal-y-Tara for supplies.

I’m not a polo player, but now that I’ve spent time at Tal-y-Tara, I just may go back to buy a pair of boots to go with my Earl Grey.



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