When in a foreign country, if offered mysterious liquid in an unlabelled, re-used, green plastic soda bottle, the normal response is as follows:
"What is it?" sniffing dubiously at plastic cup.
"It's good. Drink some!" genial offer from smiling host.
"But what is it?" more dubious sniffing.
"It's healthy. Very good for you."
These are danger words. Any drink touted as "healthy" by locals usually is only so in the sense of "healthy" competition. As in Darwinian competition. As in, if you can drink 2 litres of this liquid without undergoing immediate and dramatic liver meltdown, and retain the ability to bear children (some places, I think they make visitors drink this sort of thing in an icy stream) you are a survivor of the fittest.
So this sort of offer at quarter past nine in the morning is bound to make the gooseflesh rise. Especially as the liquid is the sort of murky brown that I last saw while ambling through South Bohemia's peaty swamps.
"Ahh… It's quite early and I haven't finished my tea yet."
"No. It's healthy. You must drink." Three beaming faces watch the cup in my hand assiduously. I attempt to discern any trace of guile or deviousness in their eyes. There is none. This makes me more nervous.
I sniff. I sip. "Oh! It's apple juice." Knees go weak with relief.
"It is not apple juice. It is mošt!"
"Yes, yes. Mošt! It is just the apples, prrrressed." Mirek demonstrates the prrrressing of an invisible bushel of apples between his hands.
"But not apple juice."
"No. It is just the apples. Nothing else."
Petr likewise squishes some invisible apples. "Mirek's friend makes it. We take apples to his factory and he presses them."
Mirek adds, "Yes. They press many fruits. His parents make the alcohol."
"Ah, I see. But this isn't alcohol."
"No. It is not. It is mošt." Before, uh…" Jacek pauses. No one really talks about "before" here. "Before... In that time, we could not buy apple juice in the boxes in the shop. So we took the apples and pressed them. Now, this is not so common."
"I see. Why so?"
"The apple juice in boxes is different. It lasts longer but is full of, full of… chemical things."
"Yes, preservatives. Mošt, you must drink quickly. But it has better flavour. Very healthy." Mirek and Petr nod in agreement and we all take a sip of healthy, short-life mošt.