SARS-CoV is the causative agent of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS). The virally encoded 3C-like protease (3CL(Pro)) has been presumed critical for the viral replication of SARS-CoV in infected host cells. In this study, we screened a natural product library consisting of 720 compounds for inhibitory activity against 3CL(Pro). Two compounds in the library were found to be inhibitive: tannic acid (IC(50) = 3 microM) and 3-isotheaflavin-3-gallate (TF2B) (IC(50) = 7 microM). These two compounds belong to a group of natural polyphenols found in tea. We further investigated the 3CL(Pro)-inhibitory activity of extracts from several different types of teas, including green tea, oolong tea, Puer tea and black tea. Our results indicated that extracts from Puer and black tea were more potent than that from green or oolong teas in their inhibitory activities against 3CL(Pro). Several other known compositions in teas were also evaluated for their activities in inhibiting 3CL(Pro). We found that caffeine, (-)-epigallocatechin gallte (EGCg), epicatechin (EC), theophylline (TP), catechin (C), epicatechin gallate (ECg) and epigallocatechin (EGC) did not inhibit 3CL(Pro) activity. Only theaflavin-3,3'-digallate (TF3) was found to be a 3CL(Pro) inhibitor. This study has resulted in the identification of new compounds that are effective 3CL(Pro) inhibitors.