I found the coffee does exceptionally well under a wide range of roasts: C+ to FC+: all levels have good pungency and chocolate, so I would tend toward C+ /FC with no second crack at all. For best aromatics, I like 12-24 hour rest, but for body and balance I like a longer 72 hour rest after roasting.
There's some debate about what coffee is the most exclusive, rarest, and most outstanding in the cup, a debate I always find particularly boring. There is no single "excellent coffee" out there; it's not a mountain you scale that culminates in one peak, 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 coffee (or even rare). 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 polymorphous 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 also). Like no other small-lot coffee I have tasted (or even heard about), Aida's Grand Reserve is the product of careful selection, 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 "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 cup has tons of character; it's no lightweight Central. Dry fragrance has great intensity, Dutch cocoa hints and layers of; dried peach, plum, raisin. The wet aromatic has ample amounts of chocolate, dried strawberry, and at darker roast levels, Monukka Raisin. The cup has character you might find in a sweet Kenya, a Kirinyaga-region coffee for example, with winey dark fruited notes, subtle and sweet fruit (again I think of the Monukka varietal raisin), ripe Bing cherry, and semi-sweet chocolate. The sweetness is amazing. The lightest roast I did cupped like strawberry sherbert, a very bright and super sweet flavor profile, almost tart in the acidic brightness. It's a potent cup for a Central, and my FC roast had spice notes in the finish, peppery and zesty. 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 floral notes, but this coffee has the balance and almost aggressive cup character. Roast it as gifts, for after a special dinner, or just keep it for yourself. It's great stuff.