Notes: There's some debate about what coffee is the most exclusive, rarest, most outstanding in the cup ... a debate I always find particularly elitist and boring. There is no single "excellent coffee" out there, it's not a peak you scale with one dramatic spire, and one perfect little cup of coffee waiting for you on top. If you market coffee packaged in a wine bottle, grown on a trellis, or scavenged from rodent excrement, it doesn't make it good or even rare. It's just a bunch of hoopla. Further, if you try to distinguish a set of truly excellent coffees, carefully processed, with dynamic cup character, you still end up with no single winner, since excellence in coffee means suiting the polymorphus aspects of the human senses. Luckily, great coffees are as diverse as our senses used to appreciate them. So given all my sidestepping and hesitations, if someone really turned the screws on me, and made me confess what coffee has the most time, care, passion invested in it, and reflects this in the cup, it would be Aida's Grand Reserve. Aida is Aida Batlle, who has several small farms of great distinction on the Santa Ana Volcano. (You can read about Aida in our Kilimanjaro review). Like no other small-lot coffee I have tasted (or even heard about), Aida's Grand Reserve is the product of careful propagation, harvesting, picking, processing, and blending. Yes, blending, just as a master vintner might blend from particular parts of an estate to achieve a special reserve, Aida has selected pickings from her 3 small farms, Finca Kilimanjaro, Los Alpes and Mauritania, cupped and blended them to form the Grand Reserve. This involves traditional wet processing, as well as a very difficult "raisin coffee" component, in which the coffee cherry is allowed to dry partly on the tree, until the red exterior darkens and wrinkles slightly. You get the feeling with this lot that every single little green bean was inspected under a microscope and chosen for this lot. (The burlap bags we received this in are double-layered, hand inked, with sewn-on batiked labeling!) This is the first time we have been able to offer this Aida's Grand Reserve, but if you google it you will see how little is available, and how glowing the reviews have been in the previous years. The cup has ton's of character; it's no lightweight Central. Dry fragrance has great intensity, dark semi-sweet chocolate, Dutch cocoa hints and fruited layers too, dried plum. The wet aromatic has ample amounts of chocolate and raisin (Monukka Raisin). The cup has character you might find in a more brooding type of Kenya, a Kirinyaga-region coffee for example, with pungency, winy dark fruited notes, sweet dried fruit (again I think of the Monukka varietal raisin), dark ripe Bing cherry, and semi-sweet chocolate. As I said before, this is a heavyweight cup for a Central, with brooding deep body, and long, long aftertaste marked by pungent spice tones and black pepper. While the long aftertaste has this pungency, as it cools the cup leaves a very "juicy" last impression. As far as Central go, or other high priced coffees, the Aida's Grand Reserve is unique because it has tons of body, and a more intense, bold character in general. Panama Esmeralda Gesha may have the high notes, but this coffee has the balance and almost aggressive cup character. It's fantastic stuff. So I'll just cave in completely: here we have the rarest, most exotic, and most excellent coffee since man put coffee bean to fire and soaked in water! Okay, seriously, this is one of the most intense and complex Centrals I have ever experienced. Roast it as gifts, for after a special dinner, or just keep it for yourself. It's amazing stuff.