Polo was brought to Jamaica by the British army in 1882. During the early years it received an unenthusiastic reception, but by 1898, and following a series of Royal visits, polo had become an authentic institution in Jamaica, with clubs and tournaments springing up everywhere. By the turn of the 20th century, polo was attracting many English and North-American visitors, and 1901 saw the first edition of the ‘Parish Cup’, a silver cup that teams competed for each year and that was first presented by Sir John Dewar, whose family owned the famous ‘Dewar’ distilleries in Scotland. English teams have been regular visitors to the island ever since. Over the last 25 years, one of the most familiar sights on the circuit has been the team managed by John Tinsley, former President of the Hurlingham Polo Association. Over the years, Jamaica’s polo teams have played matches against teams from all over the world, even from countries as far off as New Zealand and Nigeria and as close to home as Barbados and Costa Rica.
The Jamaican polo season is long, running from January to early August, when the hurricane season is at its height.
Each year, a large number of teams from various countries travel to the island. The highlights of Jamaica’s polo season are the famous Scotia Capital Markets Open, played in Kingston in March, and the Senior Cup which takes place in St. Ann in May.
The clubs offer superb facilities for visiting players, regardless of whether they are beginners or seasoned professionals, including pony hire, lessons, mallet and ball hire, etc. If you’re interested in trying your hand at this amazing sport, anything you may need, regardless of your level of skill, is at your disposal at these clubs.
According to Shane Chin, who has played this sport all his life and is Captain of the Jamaica Polo Association and a member of the St. Ann Polo Club, “When you’ve played polo once, you’re hooked for life. It’s like a disease that spreads through your veins. The only way of getting out of this sport is either by going bankrupt or dying!”
Yet polo was not the only custom the British passed on to the Jamaicans. Part of the polo ritual is stopping for tea. Jamaica produces an organic tea harvested from the Jamaica sorrel bush, a hibiscus from the Malvaceae family. This unusual plant can grow to heights of between 3 and 5 metres. Its flowers are red, although as it grows they generally fade in colour. The calyx is red and full, with a soft velvety texture that gives you the impression that you are looking at a bobble of perfumed cotton.
This tea is extremely good for you: it is diuretic, anti-oxidising, speeds up cell metabolism, reduces LDL or ‘bad’ cholesterol and increases the synthesis of HDL or ‘good’ cholesterol.
So are you ‘game’ for watching a polo match whilst you sip a cup of fragrant Jamaica sorrel tea?
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