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May 17, 2007 07:59 PM

Tal-Y-Tara Tea and Polo Shoppe [San Francisco]

My friend and I were returning from a long day of working outside in the cold and wind. She had the inspired idea of stopping by Tal-Y-Tara on California Street/27th Avenue (San Francisco) for some hot tea. Neither of us had ever been there. I never knew the shop was there other than to notice the (fiberglass?) horse on display on the sidewalk and seeing the riding gear for sale.

It was pretty quiet, two tables had some quiet people chatting. We ordered one of the two white teas and a 'motorloaf.' The tea was served in a nice fat tea pot wrapped in a cloth. The white tea (my first) - something with 'Pom" in the name, was soothing and mildly flavortul. The motorloaf was a small brownish bread loaf with a rectangle cut out of it. He sliced up that rectangle to make elegant little sandwiches (egg salad with capers, ham, cucumber are what I remember) that were individually wrapped in small bits of paper.

My thought on seeing this was I could easily swallow the whole loaf myself in two seconds. It tasted great - a little nutty and a little sweet. However, there was a sort of time and appetite shift that happened as we sat there and had our little bites. We changed from being hurried, tired, and hungry to feeling warm, satisfied, and sated. There was plenty to look at - the top hat, ornate mantelpiece, riding gear and the man there was very friendly. I'm still surprised that those bitty bites satisfied me. There was something about slowing down, drinking lots of hot tea and enjoying the morsels that just fit the bill.

They have a patio in back that could be nice on a sunny day.
Closed Sundays
M-Sat Noon - 7 PM

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  1. I was just there too; we had two excellent pots of British and Scottish black teas as well as scones with devonshire cream and jam. Warm casual service. They offer at least 30 varieties of high-grade looseleaf tea. Prices are modest, at least for tea ($5 for a huge refillable pot for two).

    Thanks to Kim Cooper for long ago recommending it.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Windy

      Those scones are killer, one of the owners makes them from scratch. This place is one of those SF gems that make this city unique and the community needs to frequent and patronize so it doesn't vanish.

    2. I hosted a small birthday gathering in Tal-y-Tara's backyard on a nice sunny day, and it was glorious. Nothing fancy, but beautiful flowers, and a nice, quiet, relaxing ambience. The service is very friendly, but you have to be prepared for a leisurely experience. We spent hours over tea, scones and the motorloaf. I also agree that the scones are to die for. Now, if only I could get some of the "real" clotted cream from England, I'd be in heaven. All in all, this is a great place to slow down and enjoy life.

      1. I'm happy to hear that it's still there. My daughter and I went years ago and had a great, if lengthy, time. We'll have to go again soon.

        1. Has anyone been here recently? If so, how was your visit? Is the bread for the motorloaf soft like a quick bread?

          1 Reply
          1. re: free sample addict aka Tracy L

            Yes, I was there last month. The motorloaf is the same as always. Like an Irish brown bread.

          2. I've walked past this place a few times and finally conned a friend into going with me. You can order a la carte or from a selection of set menus; we split the most abbreviated set menu, which was still a ton of food: shortbread, scones, and the array of motorloaf sandwiches.

            The motorloaf (white/wheat flour blend sweetened with molasses) was tender and lightly sweet but not overly; as you can see in the attached pic, the tea sandwiches were served inside the hollowed-out loaf.

            He got a chocolate scone; I had currant. The scones leaned more toward the dry side than what you'll get at, say, B Patisserie, but these seem more classically scone-y to me, improved with a dressing of clotted cream or jam. Each of us got a little pot of Devon cream and strawberry jam.

            Lots of choices for tea, but I prefer a straightforward malty Breakfast tea with milk, so that's what I got, from Taylors of Harrogate. Plenty of selections of herbal, fruit and green loose leaf teas if that's what you prefer.

            Service was lovely; warm and attentive, but never rushed.