Zhao Xiaowei did what would have been unthinkable just a few years ago: He quit his Beijing barista job and returned to his northeastern rust-belt hometown for a better future.

Tired of struggling to eke out a living in the nation’s overpriced capital, the 25-year-old is now earning more money running his own boutique cafe, serving up drip coffee made with high-grade Geisha beans for 60 yuan ($8.30) a cup.

"I’m close to my family and there’s a hot meal for me when I get home,” Zhao said after making the move back to Dandong last June. "And, most importantly, I have my own business.”